Youth farmers brighten cocoa industry’s prospects

Business News of Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Cocoa Farm Mahama

About 13,000 young persons, between the ages of 18 and 40, have gone into cocoa farming in the Central, Ashanti, Eastern and Western regions, raising optimism among industry stakeholders that cocoa farming will not remain the preserve of the aged.

The situation, therefore, brightens the long-term prospects of the industry in the country, given that national cocoa output risked dwindling as farmers grew older.

Consequently, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has pledged its full support for youth farmers with technical advice and inputs aimed at ensuring that they are properly motivated to stay in the venture.

“Once you get the youth attracted into cocoa farming, then it becomes very heartwarming because it means you have people who can carry the industry forward,” the Public Affairs Manager of the COCOBOD, Mr Noah Amenyah, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on January 9.

COCOBOD admits that the industry is dominated by aged farmers, most of whose children shy away from the venture due to the general negative perception about agriculture among the youth in the country.

Majority of the cocoa farmers are also uneducated, making it difficult for them to quickly abandon traditional and conventional farming methods for modern technique that could increase output of the crop.

“The youth of today are more educated and because of that they will understand the principles of good agricultural practices, they will be bold enough to invest in the farms and all that will reflect in the output,” Amenyah said.

He explained that COCOBOD, which regulates the cocoa industry, had already grouped the young farmers into associations in the various farming communities to enable it to easily reach out to them by way of support.

“When the free fertiliser and mass spraying was done, we ensured that they were well catered for. We have also introduced awards targeted at them and all these are aimed at motivating those in the business to stay and increase yield as well as get more of them to join,” he added.

President’s visit

Of the current 13,000 youthful farmers, Mr Amenyah said about 3,000 of them are currently in Kade in the Eastern Region and a total of 10,000 in the Assin-Fosu and Ellembelle districts in the Central and Western regions respectively.

“Beyond these, we also see pockets of the youth going into the business and that to us is good news. We understand there is another group starting in the Brong Ahafo Region and other areas. What we also realise is that expectations from these young farmers are quite high and we hope they will deliver,” he said, citing the recent visit of President John Mahama to Sinchen, one of the areas dominated by the young farmers, as an example.

The President, on January 7, paid a working visit to a 13-acre cocoa farm owned by Mr Samuel Tobi, the 2013 National Best Young Cocoa Farmer.

The visit was timely and inspirational, the Public Affairs Manager of the COCOBOD said, noting that the gesture would help lift the spirit of the farmers to increase national output of the crop.

The country grossed about US$1.9 billion from the export of cocoa and its derivatives in the first nine months of last year, a value that can rise should output of the crop pick up this season.

Land acquisition

Ghana was the world’s top producer of cocoa – currently the country’s number one cash crop – until the late 1970s, when neighboring Cote d’Ivoire overtook it.

Although management of COCOBOD and politicians have assured of proper mechanisms that will get Ghana to regain this enviable position, not much has been achieved, with output dropping from about 1.025 million tonnes in the 2010/11 cocoa season to about 850,000 tonnes in the 2013/4 season.

On how the youth were getting access to land to cultivate the crop, Mr Amenyah said some of them were taking over family farms from their ageing parents, while others were individually buying the farms off people who were no longer interested in the venture.