Two hundred and forty cocoa farmers within the host communities of Abosso Goldfields Limited (Damang Mine) have been supported by Gold Fields Ghana Foundation, under the ‘Cocoa Support Programme’.
The Cocoa Support Programme was implemented in 2018 to help create and sustain employment in the area of cocoa production, and boost annual cocoa production in the host communities by 10% in three years.
Abdel-Razak Yakubu, Executive Secretary of Gold Fields Ghana Foundation, said since inception of the programme 600 host community cocoa farmers – of which 68.8% are males and 31.2% are females – with a combined farm size of 480 hectares have benefitted from the programme.
Each beneficiary farmer, he mentioned, receives support such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), mix blowers, COCOBOD-approved fertiliser and agrochemicals for three consecutive years before exiting the programme.
“A survey conducted recently indicated that an average acre of cocoa farm, prior to the intervention of Gold Fields Ghana Foundation, yielded between 10 to 12 bags of cocoa beans annually. After three years of constantly applying fertiliser, the same acres are giving the farmers more than 16 bags, an increase of more than 33%. On average, the beneficiaries reported a 7% increase in their annual income,” Mr. Yakubu added.
This year, he said, 240 farmers have been supported with COCOBOD-approved fertilier and pesticides.
“This programme has been implemented in collaboration with the Huni Valley Cocoa Farmers Association of the Ghana Cocoa Coffee Shea-nut Farmers’ Association and the Damang Mine Consultative Farmers Association (DMCFA),” he added.
Mr. Robert Siaw, Sustainability Development Manager of Gold Fields Ghana Limited, mentioned that 600 farmers have so far enjoyed support from the programme under the Foundation.
“US$20,000 has been spent on the 240 farmers in terms of COCOBOD-approved fertiliser and pesticides,” he said.
To date, he said, the Foundation has invested US$6.8m of resources in the agriculture sector. This has gone into programmes such as: youth in organic horticulture production; livestock rearing; the oil palm plantation programme; fish farming and other agribusinesses.
He encouraged the youth to take up to cocoa farming and other Gold Fields initiatives very seriously.
“Typical with exhaustible natural resources, GFG is aware and mindful of the fact that mining operations will eventually cease once the resources are depleted or are no longer economically viable. And since the Foundation’s funding is tied to the fortunes of mining operations, the Foundation will thus eventually fold as well. Thinking ahead, GFG is putting 5% of contributions to the Foundation into a separate investment instrument, the Legacy Account, to be used by communities for social development only after the mines’ lives have expired.
“We are very hopeful that this gesture will continue motivating farmers to continue working hard for the programme’s success, to improve their incomes for the benefit of their families, community and the country.”
Head of Public Affairs at COCOBOD, Stephen Fiifi Boafo, pointed out the devastating socio-economic consequences illegal mining (galamsey) is having on the future livelihoods of cocoa farmers in the country.
According to him, illegal miners are robbing farmers of their lifetime earnings as well as a legacy that could be bequeathed to their generations. He said perpetrators of illegal mining activities make juicy promises to cocoa farmers, luring them to give away their cocoa farms.
“These innocent farmers have ended up being in an impoverished situation with nothing to depend on upon retirement.” He therefore appealed for cocoa farmers to resist any attempt by illegal miners to convince them to sell off their lands, which eventually deprives them of their lifetime investments.
Mr. Boafo reminded farmers about the several measures government, in collaboration with Ghana Cocoa Board and the National Pension Regulatory Authority (NPRA), is implementing to better the lives of cocoa farmers – especially on retirement.
He expressed joy for the gesture extended to cocoa farmers by GFGF under their Cocoa Farmers Foundation Support Programme, adding that it is worth emulating by other mining companies. Over the years, both mining and cocoa production had co-existed peacefully until the upsurge of illegal mining activities.
Mr. Fiifi Boafo is of the view Gold Fields Ghana Limited’s example is an attestation that responsible mining can go a long way to help improve the ecosystem and support other environmental activities, including farming; and commended the management of Gold Fields Ghana Limited for supporting cocoa farmers over the years.
Rev. Edwin Afari, Executive Director of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) also applauded GFGF for supporting cocoa farmers and encouraging the Foundation to adopt pruning, to help farmers improve on agronomy practices to enhance flowering of cocoa trees.
He noted that this will help check incidences of black pod disease. “Pruning also ensures good air conditions on cocoa farms; without that, the application of fertiliser will yield low results,” he said.
Rev Afari therefore suggested the Foundation should buy pruners for such an important exercise. “Happily, new pollination programmes are improving yields from five pods per tree to about 1,800 or 42 bags per acre – and this is unprecedented.”
He reported that some cocoa purchasing clerks, Licenced Cocoa Buying Companies (LBCs) colluded with farmers to smuggle Ghana’s cocoa beans to Cote d’Ivore and Togo to sell their produce for higher prices – arguing that this act undermines the country’s determination and vision to become a premium producer of cocoa globally.
Thomas Boakye, Municipal Chief Farmer, lauded GFGL for their continued support and suggested COCOBOD should increase cocoa price per bag.
“People are cutting down their cocoa farms for rubber plantations; let us also benefit from cocoa roads, cocoa clinics among others as farmers,” he concluded.