Government is being urged to enact laws to protect cocoa farms in the country from destruction through the expansion of rubber plantations and illegal mining activities.
In petitions to the President, Agriculture Ministry and Speaker of Parliament, the Ghana Agriculture and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA), noted it is worrying that cocoa farms across the country are currently being destroyed without mercy despite the economic importance of the crop.
The cocoa industry, GARDJA noted, employs approximately 800,000 farm families spread over six of the ten regions of Ghana. The crop is said to generate about $2 billion in foreign exchange annually and is a major contributor to government revenue and gross domestic product.
The petition signed by GARDJA’s President Richmond Frimpong and General Secretary Ernest Adu said, “we are bringing to your kind attention a serious development that is negatively impacting the cocoa sector heavily; the destruction of cocoa farms to make way for other non-equally economically sound activities over the last five years.”
GARDJA in the petition claimed more than 4,000 acres of cocoa farms have been destroyed in the Eastern Region alone as a result of an expansion of rubber plantations.
The petitioned mentioned farming communities such as Asiam in the Ayensuah North District, as well as Asikasu and Akim Breman in the Upper West Akim District as some of the areas where such destruction has been severe.
“Lands that were in use for cocoa farming have now been taken over for rubber plantations, most of the times, without the consent of the cocoa farmers themselves.
“Rich people and companies developing such rubber plantations grab the lands from chiefs higher up without recourse to traditional leaders on the ground. They then move in and turn the cocoa farms into rubber plantations,” the petition said.
GARDJA questioned why government is so protective of the cocoa pod without giving similar attention to the tree that produces it.
“Cocoa farmers are required by law to sell the commodity to government only. It is illegal for individual farmers to export cocoa by themselves. Government is so protective of the cocoa pod.
“So, why should we treat the tree that bears the pod with such carelessness to the extent that anyone can get up and go cut down the tree without sanction? This should not be happening in any serious country,” it added.
The association also raised concerns about the destruction of cocoa farms through illegal mining activities.
“The problem is most predominant in the Amansie West and East Districts as well as Ejisu, and the Asante Akyem Central and North Districts.
“Despite the progress being made with the fight against illegal mining, such destruction to cocoa trees to make way for illegal mining have continued to date. Again, without adequate compensation for cocoa farmers whose fields are affected. This must stop,” GARDJA said.
The association warned of dire implications for the Ghanaian economy if the continuous destruction is not stopped. “It has great risks for the economy because we continue to lose foreign exchange which could threaten the very fundamentals of our economy.
“A lot of money from cocoa is pumped into educational, health and road infrastructure in this country annually which will be lost if we continue to destroy our cocoa trees. And the environment is being badly damaged as these cocoa trees go down,” it said.
“On behalf of our members and silent cocoa farmers, we present this petition to you requesting you to enact laws to protect cocoa trees and farms. T
“his law should make it mandatory that requisite permit is sought from an appropriate government institution like COCOBOD before cocoa trees can be brought down under any circumstance at all,” the petition added.
“Also, we are humbly requesting that you put in place remedial measures as we await the passage of laws to make it a criminal offence to cut down cocoa trees without a reasonable justification. We will be glad if our petition is given the urgent attention that it deserves,” the petition concluded.