Feature by Yaw A.O. Ansah
Accra, Sept. 18, GNA – With a broad smile
while working on a well pruned cocoa farm, Esi Attaa, 40, who hails from Twifo
Praso in the Central Region, tells how her farm has been transformed over the
past two years through the help of the Boame Scheme.
Auntie Esi says her yield has increased from a
100-kilogram bag of cocoa per acre to five. Previously, her farm was not in the
best of shape and nearly lost her investment, but the managerial support from
the Boame Scheme has made it very productive.
Visibly, the cocoa trees have good leaves,
look healthy and have produced green cocoa pods, with all parasitic trees being
Auntie Esi testifies that most women cocoa
farmers often engage in other livelihood enterprises in addition to cocoa
production, which often resulted in division of labour, time and resources
among the different economic activities.
“In an event that the woman cocoa farmer has
limited time and resources to invest in any other enterprise, the cocoa farm
tends to be the least considered for investment,” she said.
The challenge Aunte Esi was facing was just
one of the many issues in the sector. Although the country had gained the
status as the second largest producer of cocoa, after La Cote D’Ivoire, it
faces a management challenge including high rate of aged farmers, high cost of
labour and inadequate supply of inputs.
Dr Yaw Osei-Owusu, the Executive Director of
Conservation Alliance International (CA), says these challenges translate into
inadequate labour and financial investments needed for the optimisation of the
potential of cocoa farmlands.
Cocoa production is a major economic activity
undertaken by more than 800,000 farmers. Improving farm management can help
boost farm productivity and revenue of about two billion dollars in foreign
exchange annually, and is a major contributor to Government Revenue and Gross
Domestic Production (GDP).
Boame, to wit “help me,” is an Akan word. As
the name signifies, the scheme seeks to help farmers to improve farm
productivity, the ecological health of cocoa farms and household incomes.
Since its inception in 2015, over 50 farming
communities in the Central and Western regions have benefitted from the pilot
project. Having proven effective and efficient at the pilot stage, the new
phase of Boame is targeting more than 60,000 cocoa farmers across the cocoa
production landscape in Ghana. This initiative is being jointly implemented by
Conservation Alliance International CERATH Investments, Biodiversity Heritage
Associates, and Vital Info.
Dr Osei-Owusu, in an interview with the Ghana
News Agency, explained that the Scheme provides farmers with two options: the
full and partial management. The full management option is where farmers hand
over their farm to the management scheme for assessment and mapping out, where
the required agroforestry practices are undertaken and farmers pay back the
cost of rehabilitation (inputs and labour at an agreed period).
The partial management option is where farmers
sign onto the Scheme to have their farms assessed to establish the management
gaps, after which management prescriptions are determined and given to the
farmer to implement.
Dr Osei-Owusu said the Scheme would complement
government’s effort at improving cocoa production through the Cocoa
Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP).
Boame, he noted, targets more than 100,000
cocoa-growing households across Ghana and will soon be active in 15 districts
in the Eastern, Western and Central regions. It is the desire of implementers
to extend it to all the cocoa growing regions by 2020.
The Scheme Coordinator, Mr Ato Kwamena Addo,
said it had recruited and trained some local young men and women whom it called
the Boame Scout, to implement these management practices such as pruning, weeding
and spraying under the direct supervision of Conservation Alliance, thus
creating jobs for the youth, a key policy of government.
At the pilot stage 50 young men and women
gained employment and the number will increase by 45 per cent as the Scheme is
Mr Anthony Carr, a Boame Scout from Twifo
Praso in the Central Region, said: “The services I provide serve as a source of
income to provide for my family and support my children.”
Experts say aside cocoa being one of the few
crops that has a ready market, it is a good prospector for Ghana’s attainment
of the new Sustainable Development Goal (SGD 15), which seeks to,
among other things, help countries sustainably manage forests. In the case
of Boame, the average tree cover of most of the poor managed farms in the
piloted areas was two trees per acre and this has been improved to six and
eight trees per acre through the Scheme.
Professor Alfred Oteng Yeboah, the Chair of
the National Biodiversity Committee, states that the adoption of practices and
activities that favour pollinators such as promotion of biological pest control
and very limited use of pesticides have increased the abundance, diversity and
health of these pollinators.
“Pollinators play an essential role in helping
to feed a rising local population in a sustainable way and help maintain
biodiversity and a vibrant ecosystem, which is in line with the SGDs,” he said.
Just as the name; Boame, implies,
organisations and individuals interested in improving the wellbeing of cocoa
farmers and the environment must come on board to support the Scheme.