The Poverty Situation In Cocoa Growing Communities In Ghana

Kwame Dwomo pupils accessing education in the dust

Government’s interventions have since ushered cocoa farmers in the country into destitution and are still living way below globally defined poverty levels, which is $2 a day.

The lack of a decent livelihood for cocoa farmers contributes greatly to bad labour, human rights violations, child labour, lack of access to potable water, access to good healthcare, access to good roads, proper education and its related problems in the cocoa supply chain.

The future of Ghana’s Cocoa is no longer attractive. Thus, the younger generations are largely drifting away from Cocoa Farming, whilst the life expectancy of the older farmers are also aging away.

Farmers have no control over decision-making, thus cocoa is largely purchased and sold to the global market by government through the Ghana COCOBOD.

The unfair distribution of value and power in the cocoa value chain also contributes to the root causes of the extreme poverty of cocoa farmers.

And again, merging and takeovers have resulted in only a few companies dominating up to 80% of the whole value chain, whereas farmers who suffer to produce the cocoa, lacks the right to be a part of the decision-making process.

The sad aspect of it all is that, the percentage score of poverty rate among all cocoa growing regions is higher than the non cocoa growing regions according to the recent Ghana Statistical Service report. Why must the Cocoa Farmer be poor when Ghana’s GDP hinges on their produce?

Farmers Drying their cocoa beans in the Eastern Region

Meanwhile, Ghana’s national social protection strategy (2007) represents government’s vision of creating an all-inclusive and socially empowered society through the provision of sustainable mechanisms for the protection of persons living in extreme poverty and related vulnerability and exclusion.

On the backdrop of this, I embarked on a tour in some of the cocoa growing areas in the country to find out how government’s interventions have since impacted Cocoa Farmers’ livelihood and the sector as a whole in the country.

I visited Kasapin and its neighboring villages in the Asunafo North Municipality of the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Some of the villages includes Kwame Amanedie (Kwaamandie), Owam, Aduroye, and Brahabebome.

The rest of the places I visited were Kwame Dwomo (Kwaadwomo) and Nkwanta in the Domaa West District of the Brong Ahafo, and also Jaman South in the Brong Ahafo Region, Sefwi Akaatiso in the Bia District of the Western Region, and Akumadan, the district capital of Offinso North in the Ashanti Region.

In all these visits, I also engaged some of the farmers as well as some farmer Associations.

In an engagement with Mr. Asuman Ben (a.k.a Sika wo Bush), who is a Cocoa and a Cashew farmer at Jaman South Municipality in the Brong Ahafo Region, he said, “The current Government of Ghana has disappointed Cocoa Farmers because we don’t understand why the Price of Cocoa has been maintained since 2016 to 2019 season, so we are all expecting the Government to come out immediately and explain things to us or else they should prepare to meet us in Court.”

Speaking to Mr. Patrick Owusu, the Union Manager of Asunafo North Municipal Cooperative Cocoa Farmer and Marketing Union Limited which is one of the most vibrant farmer unions in the country on behalf of the farmers in the Asunafo North Municipality, he strongly intimated that, Cocoa farmers were faced with so many challenges.

Some of which he said were smaller farm lands, poor road network, aging cocoa trees that makes less production due to lack of good agronomic practices, thus resulting in scanty profits which makes it difficult to support themselves, let alone to send their children to school, and among others.

According to him, farmers in all the cocoa growing areas still lives in poverty because they have no control over decision-making, thus cocoa is largely purchased and sold to the global market through the government.

At Brahabebome, a suburb of Mim in the Asunafo North Municipal of the Brong Ahafo Region, Mr. Asare Bawa, who is a cocoa farmer also shared his concerns with me, Saying, “For the past forty five years, I have managed to harvest about 10 bags on my three different farms which together is 16-acres, for each crop season. But now my concentration is more on my cocoyam, plantain and cassava farms because it fetches me more money than the cocoa does.”

A 71-year old Agya Yeboah who has also been a cocoa farmer till date and owns a 7-acre cocoa farm at Achampong Shed, a suburb of Sefwi Akaatiso in the Bia District of the Western Region, shared similar experience with me.

“I harvests less than two bags of cocoa on my entire farm at the end of each crop season. And this discourages me all the time due to the low yield. I have been in the cocoa business for so may years but I’m unable to increase my yields. The yields keep decreasing and this makes me want to stop cocoa farming but I have no alternative source of livelihood,” Agya Yeboah lamented.

Another visit to Akumadan, the district capital of Offinso North in the Ashanti Region of Ghana and it’s enclave, as well as in the Eastern Region were not an exception.

So the question is, has government got a data of farmers in the country? does it know the number of cocoa farmers in the country and how much parcels of land each farmer has, to determine how much each farmer produces for the country?

So the question is, has government got a data of farmers in the country? does it know the number of cocoa farmers in the country and how much parcels of land each farmer has, to determine how much each farmer produces for the country?

However, by Ghana Cocoa Board Law, 1984, (PNDC. L.81), it says, “The objects of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) include the following:- to purchase, market and export cocoa produced in Ghana which is graded and sealed under the provisions of Cocoa Industry (Regulation) Consolidation Decree, 1968 (NLCD. 278) or any other enactment, as suitable for export, to secure the most favourable arrangements for the purchase, inspection, grading, sealing and certification, export and sale of cocoa, coffee and sheanuts.

Under S.4 (6) of the said PNDC Law 81, no person shall market or export any cocoa unless: it is cocoa which is the property of COCOBOD; or It is cocoa which has been graded and sealed, the export of which has been authorised in writing by the certifying authority of the Board.”

In effect, farmers are only allowed to sell their beans to purchasing clerks who act as intermediaries between them and COCOBOD. Therefore, Ghana’s low cocoa prices and the depreciation of the cedi has led some farmers and purchasing clerks to smuggle their beans into neighbouring Ivory Coast which is the world’s largest cocoa exporter.

Research has shown that, production declined since the mid-1960s, reaching its lowest level in 1983. Although production has increased consistently since the mid-1980s, it is still less than the level attained in the mid-1960s.

In the early 1990s, COCOBOD continued to liberalize and to privatize cocoa marketing their own way. The board raised prices to producers and introduced a new system providing greater incentives for private traders. In particular, COCOBOD agreed to pay traders a minimum producer price as well as an additional fee to cover the buyers’ operating and transportation costs and to provide some profit.

COCOBOD still handled overseas shipment and export of cocoa to ensure quality control. The question is; has it changed for the better or worsened today?

Speaking to the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo, he said, “We are very much determined to change the old trend in negotiating for the global processors and marketers for a floor price of the cocoa bean. This would be purposefully designed to suit the welfare of the cocoa farmers and maximizing yield.”

Is this true?….. well, your guess is good as mine. This, however, leaves me with no doubt that, the government is just protective and much concerned with the cocoa beans rather than to care for the farmers who produces the beans.

Taking a look at some of the education, road, and health infrastructures in these areas, it was very sad.

At Kwabena Dwomo Basic School, in the Domaa West District, the future leaders of this country were accessing education in the dust in dilapidated structures, right from Kindergarten to primary six, and most of these pupils treks about nine miles to the school. This was my first visit which was in the absence of the headmaster Mr. Danso.

Kwame Dwomo KG School Block

In a followup on my second visit, the
Headmaster wasn’t around but he agreed to meet me, which he did but declined speaking to me since it was not inline with Ghana Education Service policy, but then I managed to get a little information because the situation there was dire. And the kindergarten pupils had been moved from a death trap erected structure to sit under a tree to access education, on the instructions of the District Education Director.

He disclosed that, he was made to write an apology letter to the District Education Office and the DCE for allowing me to speak on the situation of the school. Because, the DCE, Madam Mary Ameyaa had promised to help them in November and the headmaster had rushed to go public with it before the said month so it had disgraced them.

Right there and then, we both called the DCE, Madam Mary Ameyaa, but she engaged at an event and promised to speak later. I called her on 26th December, 2018, and she explained that there was a heavy storm which ripped off the roof of the clinic in the community so she had to support that area which seamed emergency, with the little common fund available.

“The work load is many in the community and I couldn’t leave the clinic yo go and fix the school. They should exercise patients, I have not forgotten…. I will do as I said,” She added.

Meanwhile, the MP for the area Hon. Ali Maiga Halidu, had told me to hold on to the information on the school, and that he was going to provide them with furniture which he did weeks after. But all attempts to call him back for a followup on the infrastructure proofed futile (i.e His available number could not go through as at now that I’m filling this story).

Taking its turn of my visit, Kasapin Community Day Senior High Technical School in the Asunafo North Municipality of the Brong Ahafo Region, and named after the Chief of Kasapin, Nana Opunuewisie Wiredu Brempong, as Wiredu Brempong Senior High Technical School, was started about four years ago.

Wiredu Brempong Snr. High Tech. Kasapin

The community school had 90% in the 2017 WASSCE and had 100% in the year 2018, with aggregate 14 as the worst grade.

Yet, the school is still being run by the traditional authority and the community upon all plea for government to adopt it. Now the enrollment keeps increasing due to their performance, and they lack adequate infrastructure to accommodate the students.

However, the district was fortunate to have gotten one of the E-Block School Building right adjacent Wiredu Brempong Senior High Technical School, in Kasapin. Sadly, it’s been abandoned, and after a followup to meet the headmaster, Mr. Evan Kwodwo Sarfo, he noted that inspectors came from the municipal education office to inspect it after I visited on my first time.

“We are yet to hear the outcome. Now we are trying to put up a dinning hall for the school with support from the Chiefs and people of the community,” He noted.

The abandoned E-Block School Building at Kasapin

Again, he said, “We are appealing to the government and the Ghana Education Service to adopt the School. The community has to also benefit from the national educational cake. The school has a total number of 19 teachers and they are only sacrificing for the sake of the children, and in fact, they are doing very well in spit of whatever little amount we offer them.”

Trying to speak to the MP of the area, Evans Opoku Bobie, upon several calls his phone lines were off. But i promise to follow up on him as well as the District Education Director on this situation.

Speaking to Nana Opunuewisie Wiredu Brempong, he called on the Ghana Education Service and government to adopt the school so that their wards could also benefit from the free senior high school policy.

All these relevant information I gathered with respect to the welfare of farmers in these areas, led to the exposure of abject poverty and mistrust of the State.

I therefore believe agriculture should be treated as a priority sector, and that both small and marginal farmers should be recognized as a special group.

Direct income support should be given to small and marginal farmers, efforts should be done for value enhancement of agro products, trade policies should be designed for sustainable agriculture growth and the protection of agriculture markets.

The government should place more emphasis upon agriculture oriented research and education, synchronizing all related departments for better execution of agricultural policies.

Government should also focus upon land reforms, by avoiding misuse and diversion of land for non-agriculture activities.

For effective Agro Marketing Strategies, direct marketing encourages farmers to undertake grading of farm produce at the farm gate and avert the necessity to drag produce to regulated market for sale. Direct marketing enables farmers and processors.

However, all the relevant policies like Water Policy, Food Processing Industry Policy, Live Stock Policy, Land Use Policy should be supportive to each other.

Source: Samuel Adjei Kwarteng/

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