The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), has honoured 15 visually impaired cocoa farmers from three cocoa-producing regions for their immense contribution to the success of the cocoa industry in Ghana.
The farmers, aged between 50 to 78 years have been working for 15 to 60 years with seven of them still active.
They were drawn from Asikuma, Assin Fosu, Twifo Praso, and Dunkwa in the Central Region; Manso Amenfi, Elubo, and Daboase in the Western Region, and Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Mr Kofi Esuon, an awardee, was honoured posthumously at the novel awards ceremony held in Cape Coast on Friday.
With support from the Agricultural Manufacturing Group Limited (AMG Ghana) and Mondelez Cocoalife International, each of the blind farmers received undisclosed sums of cash, six bags of fertilizer, two pairs of Wellington boots, two cutlasses, chocolates, and other Cocoa products.
Rev Edwin Afari, Executive Director, Cocoa Health, and Extension Division, COCOBOD, said the gesture was a novelty to reward and motivate less privileged cocoa farmers, particularly Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), who were indispensable to Ghana’s cocoa value chain.
He commended the blind farmers for defying all odds to commit to cocoa farming, the backbone of the country’s economy and many individual families.
“Disability is not inability and so you can do everything you put your mind to.
“Sight is not in eyes alone but also in the heart and mind; if you work diligently with your heart and mind, that is a special kind of sight,” he noted.
Rev Afari expressed concern over the aging population of cocoa farmers, citing the attendant looming dire impact on the economy and general development.
He expressed worry that many young people were not interested in agriculture in spite of the vast prospects in the sector.
He, admonished the youth, including professionals from all fields, to venture into agriculture, particularly cocoa to create wealth for themselves and the country.
He indicated that this year, COCOBOD would focus on cocoa pruning, and undertake pollination and pest control exercises to help increase the country’s production.
“We did 1.47 million tonnes last two years but last year was not too good because of the weather and so we came down to about 683,000 tonnes.
“We are targeting 850,000 tonnes this year and we are doing very well for the main crop season,” he indicated, adding that the company was always available to offer support to all cocoa farmers facing challenges on their farms.
While commending the partners supporting them, Rev Afari indicated that the awards would be expanded to include other PWDs when they got more sponsors.
Nana Kwesi Ofori, the Central Regional Chief Farmer, urged the public to take inspiration from the commitment and achievements of the blind farmers.
He also appealed to COCOBOD, government and civil society organisations to support PWDs to thrive in the cocoa industry.
“Let this not be a nine-day wonder. It should continue to motivate everybody,” he said.
Some of the awardees who spoke with the Ghana News Agency after the event expressed excitements and gratitude for the honour and recognition.
Mr Kwesi Adu said “I was farming before I went blind, but I never gave up. I motivated myself even harder, and with support of the people around me, I am doing better than others.
“I am grateful to COCOBOD for their support,” he added.