Cocoa farmers in Ghana have called on the government to mandate financial institutions to finance agriculture as part of their credit portfolio.
This they believe will enable them to access funds needed to increase output.
This call is contained in a report developed from a farmer engagement conference held in Kumasi to solicit concerns from cocoa farmers in six cocoa regions in Ghana.
Sharing the report at a SEND Ghana stakeholder conference on Living Income and Human Rights in Ghana’s Cocoa Sector, the Chairman of the Cocoa Abrabopa Farmers Association, Ishmael Pomasi, noted that agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy.
However, he questioned the unwillingness of some financial institutions to give out loans to farmers, prompting their call for this mandate.
Mr Pomasi advised that “As part of their corporate social responsibility and other services they render we must ensure that financial institutions look at agriculture financing. I believe if this becomes a mandate, the majority of farmers will be able to access financial credits to enable them to invest in their farms which will lead to an increase in yields.”
In an interview with Cocoa Post, a female cocoa farmer from Dunkwa Offin, Alizatu Adamu, complained about the struggles of female cocoa farmers in accessing funding to enable them to employ the services of farm hands.
She said, “There is some farm work we are unable to do ourselves as women and need extra help. Unfortunately, we cannot hire the workers we need because we do not have the money to pay them.”
There were also calls by the farmers to other stakeholders to support them with training on financial literacy and management. Adding that this initiative is to help them manage funds better and invest wisely.
The issue of low cocoa prices was one challenge the farmers bemoaned. With the rise in cost for production as against returns made from the sale of cocoa beans, farmers are making losses.
The cocoa farmers called on the government to take these into consideration when setting the farmgate price.
Participants, mostly cocoa growers, traced challenges to cocoa sustainability to lower cocoa prices on the international market and at the farm gate, hence the recurring cases of labour malpractices and environmental threats.
Other challenges outlined in the report were ageing cocoa farmers, inadequate agrochemicals, the effect of illegal mining on farmlands and water bodies, climate change, delay in disbursement of seed funds, inadequate extension officers, and lack of infrastructure in cocoa communities.
Cocoa farmers appealed to the stakeholders to consider providing grants for youth in agriculture, to encourage more youth to take on farming as a profession and help tackle the issue of generational discontinuity in the sector.
The Executive Secretary of the Cote d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative, Alex Assanvo, in a reaction to issues outlined in the report, thanked farmers for telling the story of their struggles.
He underscored that the voice of farmers and civil society organizations are better heard than that of the government.