Cocoa farmers in Ghana risk impoverishment if urgent steps are not taken by the government to halt threats posed by illegal mining activities that are gradually destroying cocoa farms.
According to a new Cocobod study, about 11,000 hectares of cocoa farmlands have come under threats from illegal miners, popularly known as ‘galamseyers’, who influence poor cocoa farmers with monetary enticements to take over cocoa farmlands for mining activities.
“The rich miners and their sponsors take the cocoa farmlands from the poor farmers, offer them one-off payment when they sell their farmlands for mining and live in perpetual poverty, meanwhile one can generate income from a cocoa farm for over 40 years”, one angry farmer said.
Already, apart from cocoa farmers’ incomes being wiped out, available lands are also being depleted while cocoa yields have reduced significantly over the last few years.
The fear has been confirmed by findings of the latest research by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) revealing a widespread loss of cocoa farms to illegal small-scale mining activities.
The report says 80 percent of selected cocoa farms in the Western, Ashanti and Eastern Regions were found to have been devastated by illegal mining.
The latest statistics show, that over 19,000 acres out of the over 20,000 cocoa-farm acreages selected in these regions were ravaged by the galamsey menace between 2019 and 2020.
The cocoa industry regulator, the Ghana Cocoa Board says even though it is aware of the situation, it is unable to fight it alone.
“We are aware that our river bodies have been polluted. We are aware that some farms have been degraded for galamsey. We cannot sit in COCOBOD and find solutions to them. Equally, you may not know the havoc galamsey is wreaking on the cocoa industry, which has continued to be the mainstay of the economy of this country. Are we going to sit aloof and watch the cocoa industry die? No,“ Peter Mac Manu, Board Chairman of Ghana Cocoa Board said.
There are suggestions for the Ghana Cocoa Board to share cocoa farms with the Lands Commission to facilitate adequate protection over cocoa farms.