The President of New Juaben Cooperative Cocoa Farmers Union, Mr Thomas Adjei, has said Ghana risks losing her spot as the second largest cocoa producer country in the world due to illegal mining.
According to him, the indiscriminate sale of lands by some chiefs and the unsupervised nature of illegal mining and sand winning activities have combined to destroy more than 3,000 square acres of cocoa farms in the Eastern Region with no compensation for the farmers.
Mr Adjei was speaking at a short ceremony at which the union handed over nine tricycles, a number of pairs of Wellington boots, hand gloves and hand sanitisers worth GH¢129,000.00 to cocoa farmers in eight cocoa communities at New Juaben in the Eastern Region.
The items were purchased from the annual loyalty bonus given to the respective cocoa unions by Cocoa Life Programme Mondelez International, which is calculated by collating the volumes of cocoa beans produced by these unions annually.
The tricycles are to support the cocoa communities such as Wurapong, Jumapo- Asougya, Oyoko, Baah Asare Nkwanta, Kofikrom, Asikesu, Mpaayem and Adomponsu to enable them to transport their cocoa beans from their respective farms to the market.
Mr Adjei said their farmlands, which are mostly stool lands, were being sold to mining companies and other private investors without the farmers being informed, adding “we only become aware when the cocoa trees are being pulled down without dialogue to evaluate and compensate us for our plantations that have been destroyed”.
He said some chiefs had also sold land with cocoa trees on it to the All Nations University and Joy Industries Limited and that all their cocoa trees had been cut down and coconut trees planted in their place.
Mr Adjei expressed fear that failure on the part of the government and the Land Commission to intervene and avert the looming danger would plunge the country into severe economic hardship because cocoa production had proven to be the backbone of the country’s economy.
“We are not saying the lands belong to us but whenever the chiefs want to sell their lands to other investors, they must value our cocoa trees and compensate us so that our labour and investments made in planting the cocoa should not go wasted,” he said.
For her part, the Country Director of Cocoa Life Programme Mondelez International, Mrs Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, said the country’s land tenure system under which many of these cocoa farmers did not own the land that they cultivated but was in the hands of family heads or the chiefs was a very complex issue.
She indicated that her outfit had introduced the application of technology by supplying motorized pruners and motorized slashers to the farmers to weed their farms in order to make their work less difficult but increase productivity.
She said that was also to tune their minds against being lured into giving up the cultivation of cocoa in favour of other crops.
Mrs Yaa Peprah Amekudzi said the use of the tricycles was another milestone in their partnership with cocoa farmers, and it was meant to put a stop to farmers carrying wet beans from their farms to their homestead and the use of school children on the farms.
She said the first batch of tricycles distributed to the unions had served almost like ambulances as they had been used to take people to the hospitals and as a ‘school bus’ for children in the hamlets who would have walked to school sometimes over three kilometres.