It was just three years ago that Mr Emmanuel Eyisi, a member of Cooperative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union (CCP) in the Suhum Kraboa Coaltar District had his six-acre cocoa farm ravaged by indiscriminate bush fires.
He had invested all his resources and his cocoa trees had pods nearing maturity and harvest.
Mr Eyisi’s situation reflects what many members of CCP experienced year after year until a BUSAC Fund supported training brought a ray of hope. A Business Development Services (BDS) training sponsored by the BUSAC Fund equipped them with bushfire prevention and farm restoration techniques.
Traditionally, farming techniques have been passed down from one generation to the other. As such, many farmers had limited knowledge and were not privy to new technology and farming techniques. This resulted in low productivity and loss of cocoa farms to bush fires.
According to the Ghana Cocoa Board, cocoa production is a major economic activity undertaken by more than 800,000 farmers in Ghana. It is also a major contributor to the government’s revenue and gross domestic production. Improving farm management can help boost farm productivity and revenue to the tune of two billion dollars in foreign exchange annually.
The BDS training programme introduced members of CCP to methods of dealing with declining soil fertility, control of pests and diseases that attacks cocoa trees. It is estimated that pests and diseases contribute to about 30-40 percent loss of the crop.
Right after the training program, the leadership of association set up a fifteen-member fire task force to educate farmers on bush fires at the beginning of the lean season. The fire task force was also empowered to surcharge any person found culpable.
A member’s Cocoa farm
“The results have been phenomenal because farmers have recorded no incidences of bush fires after practicing the preventive measures they were taught,” Mr. Emmanuel Eyisi, a member of CCP said. They have built fire belts to prevent fire from neighboring farms from ravaging their farms.
He adds that because of the modern farming techniques and management skills adopted by the cocoa farmers, the loss of cocoa farms are things of the past. “Members are now able to spot the initial stages of pest infestation. They take samples and send them to the Ghana Cocoa Board for the appropriate spraying to be done. “The production capacity of my farm has more than doubled. In the last season, I got 10 (100 KG) bags instead of three bags. This is a real sustainable method of farming. My farm is looking clean and healthy now”, he disclosed.
Already Mr Eyisi plans to start the foundation of a new building project with a portion of the proceeds, give part to his wife as capital to start a business, and pay his children’s school fees.
Like many others, Madam Matilda Mante another beneficiary of the BUSAC Fund BDS training programme has recorded similar production increase. “I have currently harvested three (100 KG) bags and I still have some pods which will be ready by December 2019. Part of this money will go towards my daughter’s Junior High Education. I will also save some for my farm and my fish business, and be able to provide a decent meal for my family during Christmas,” she added.
The association has also seen growth in its membership. According to Mr Godfred Larbi, the President of CCP, membership has increased from 35 to 60. The new members testified that they were impressed with how well organized the group had become.
Ghana Cocoa Board has recently assigned a new extension officer to the group. Today, members of CCP are invited to participate in stakeholder engagement and refresher training courses.
To become more efficient, the group has acquired two spraying machines, two motorised pruners, two manual pruners and a Knapsack sprayer to provide services to farmers.
Experts say aside cocoa being one of the few crops that has a ready market; it is also a good prospector for Ghana’s attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 15, which seeks to, among other things, help countries sustainably manage forests.
BUSAC Fund’s BDS Facility
The Business Development Services facility under BUSAC III helps Private Sector Organisations (PSOs), and Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs) identify the capacity gaps, and skill needs of their members and address those needs with the assistance of certified BDS providers.
The PSOs, with the guidance of BDS providers, prepare training and coaching modules for their members. These modules address specific skill gaps to enable business entities to operate more efficiently and profitably.
With funding from Development Partners DANIDA and USAID, the BUSAC Fund’s BDS facility supports training on modules and topics within BUSAC Fund’s priority areas of Sustainable Agriculture, Trade, Cost of Doing Business, Green Growth and Human Rights-Based Approach.
Over 140 business associations have been able to provide capacity-building services to their members through the Fund’s BDS facility.