Joseph Aidoo, Chief Executive of COCOBOD, has expressed grave concern about aging cocoa farmers in the country, and the fact that cocoa cultivation is not something the youth of today contemplate as a profession – or livelihood for that matter.
Addressing participants at the maiden edition of the MASO Youth in Cocoa conference held in Kumasi recently, Joseph Aidoo suggested that aging cocoa farmers are a threat to sustainability of the cocoa industry, Ghana’s mainstay export commodity.
The immediate-past COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, is also on record as saying the reluctance of youth to go into cocoa cultivation in the face of aging cocoa farmers has led to serious concerns about long-term sustainability of the cocoa supply chain.
Consequently, he advised: “The surest way to attract youth into the industry is by ensuring that cocoa farming is lucrative, and also offering the necessary support”. This is the challenge facing the industry today, and we need to act consciously if indeed we intend to continue benefitting from the export crop.
COCOBOD’s focus is to solve the low productivity puzzle as well as stimulate youth interest in cocoa production by making it a target business venture, Aidoo added. To this end, he praised the artificial pollination exercise commenced last year as markedly improving productivity, and said engaging the youth in that exercise constituted the bedrock of its success.
This proves the energy and stamina of the youth is crucial to long-term sustainability of the cocoa industry as envisaged – but how to retain and sustain their interest is now the challenge. The youth, like any other aspiring individuals, are looking for a better life; and when they consider the plight of cocoa farmers over the years, it does not inspire them to venture into cocoa cultivation.
As the world progresses, the youth are in tune with modern trends through technology and the digital world; they also crave for the trappings of modernity, and they would find it retrogressive to go back to the land where their fathers and grandfathers laboured day in, day out with very little to show for it.
Therefore, to really retain the youth in farming – be it cocoa cultivation or any other crop, government will have to bridge the gap between urban and rural settings by providing amenities like potable water, electricity, good roads, schools and hospitals among others to retain the youth in rural settings.
Additionally, the remuneration also has to be enticing enough for the youth venture into the field. Anything short of these amenities will continue to see streams of youth migrating to the cities and crossing the Sahara to Europe.