Aged cocoa farmers, a threat to cocoa production?

Cocoa is a major cash crop produced in Ghana. The crop contributes about nine percent of the country’s GDP and makes up about one-third of the country’s export revenues totally over 1.5 billion dollars.

The sustenance of Ghana’s cocoa production is however under the threat of an aging farming population.

In this special report, Beatrice Spio-Garbrah takes a look at the impact of aging cocoa farmers on productivity and how the youth can be attracted into cocoa farming.

Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa producer with a strong position on the global market for standard cocoa beans.

An estimated 800,000 households are engaged in cocoa farming. The aged constitutes about 70 percent of this population, with the average cocoa farmer being 60 years old. These farmers, in their young age, helped in meeting Ghana’s cocoa production targets.

Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, is however worried at the pace of injecting young blood in producing cocoa.

“It is a worrying trend looking at the ages of our country’s cocoa farmers and we cannot sit unconcerned without bringing out interventions that will attract the youth into cocoa farming.”

New Edubiase in the Adansi South District of the Ashanti Region is one of the cocoa growing districts in the country with a number of aged cocoa farmers.

Eighty-five-year-old Nana Addae Bediako has a 30-acre cocoa farm at Nyamebekyere Nkwanta. He has been farming since his youthful years and finds cocoa farming to be lucrative.

He is however not happy about the future of his farm as all his children regard cocoa farming as a laborious business to venture.

“Sometimes I get scared and ask myself what will happen to this farm when I can no longer come to the farm due to I’ll health or when am dead and gone”  Sadly, my children see farming as a difficult venture and hence not interested in inheriting it, he added.

Clifford Achrem is 64 years. He abandoned his banking career 13 years ago to go into full-time farming. In 2017, he was adjudged the District Best Cocoa Farmer for Adansi South.

He says the income from his 75-acre cocoa farm makes him better off as a farmer than a banker.

According to Clifford, young people are not motivated enough with land and start-up capital to go into farming, despite the opportunity for good income.

“For me, cocoa farming is a lucrative business but what is putting the youth off is the difficulty in getting land and startup capital to go into cocoa farming ”

According to Clifford, the youth should be given lands and also some capital to be able to go into cocoa farming.

Former District Chief Executive for Adansi North, Benjamin Anhwere, owns a 70-acre cocoa farm. The 58-year-old has been farming since childhood as he joined his parents on the farm.

In 2017, he was adjudged the 2nd Best Ashanti Regional Farmer. He says the youth are not into farming because their parents who are farmers fail to involve them in farming.

Children are rather oriented to take up professions other than farming.

“I expect the government to liaise with traditional authorities to ease land acquisition for agricultural activities for the youth and this will go a long way in attracting young people to go into cocoa farming.”

To encourage the youth of New Edubiase to go into cocoa farming, District Chief Executive, Francis Kwabena Ankomah says the Assembly is taking advantage of the Planting for Food and Jobs to expose young people to existing opportunities.

“The Assembly is engaging landowners to ease access to the youth interested in cocoa farming he disclosed.

The COCOBOD has set a target of producing 900,000 metric tonnes of cocoa for the 2018/2019 main crop season. Interventions to increase production include rehabilitation of aged and diseased cocoa farms, pruning exercises and adoption of hand pollination.

But to sustainably meet production targets, the COCOBOD needs to attract more youth into cocoa farming. The Chief Executive Officer said there a number of activities outlined to address the challenge of an aging cocoa population. ” With the hand pollination, yields will increase and also COCOBOD has started cutting down diseased and aged trees and this will help increase yields and make cocoa farming profitable to motivate the youth.”

Ghana stands to gain more if the youth are encouraged and motivated to take up cocoa farming to replace the aging population.

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