Some cocoa farmers in the Wassa enclave of the Western Region have resorted to proceeds they realise from trading off portions of their farms to illegal miners in order to maintain their cocoa farms.
Sources say the farmers’ inability to raise substantial funds during off-season to buy farm inputs such as fertilisers and fungicides, and also to hire labourers, compels some of them to sell their farmlands to illegal miners – especially portions on the shoulders of streams.
Moreover, farmers who may not be under any financial pressure willingly sell their cocoa farms to illegal miners. Following the spread of the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD), which has wrecked farms in Wassa and other parts of the country, some farmers consider it prudent to sell their farms to the “galamseyers”.
An acre of farmland in Wassa sells at roughly GHC6,000 or above, with the valuation determined by the crops on the land, the Business and Financial Times reports.
The farmers’ financial susceptibility and the lacklustre approach by officials to stopping the activities of illegal miners have culminated in endangering the sustainability of cocoa production in the Wassa enclave, which used to produce huge quantities of the crop.
Besides, many farms in the area are bedevilled with moribund cocoa trees and others have been attacked by the CSSVD.
Breeding ground for vices
These challenges werethe topics of discussion during a field trip by members of the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) to cocoa farming communities in the Wassa Amenfi East District of the Western Region.
John Ankomah Enu, chairman of the Wassa chapter of the International Cocoa Farmers Organization, said illegal mining is the leading human-induced blight on cocoa production and the environment in that area. He said it is not only destroying farms but also denying farming the youthful labour force it needs.
“The youth in our communities have virtually shunned cocoa farming; they prefer galamsey, where they will earn between GHC100 and GHC300 daily. Our communities are saturated with youthful populations, including many migrants, but they are all doing illegal mining,” Ankomah Enu said.
“The situation is also breeding all manner of social vices which were alien to our society in the past.”
The 69-year-old farmer appealed to the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) – and, for that matter, the government – to find innovative means of making farmers more financially resourceful in order to discourage them from selling their farmlands to illegal miners and to safeguard the future of Ghana’s cocoa industry.
He also advised colleague farmers to cultivate other food crops to earn them additional income during the cocoa off-season.
For his part, Peter Ayimadu, a farmer, complained about the inadequate and uneven distribution of farm inputs, particularly fertiliser and fungicides.
He said the inputs distributed by COCOBOD are woefully insufficient to meet farming needs, and that “the situation has pushed farmers to buy from the open market flooded with fake products”.
“I requested 21 bags of fertiliser, but I received only four bags. I also had to share a bottle of agrochemical with another farmer. The mass-spraying gang on the other side has also been selective in this part of the country.
“These and many other challenges must be addressed if the country wants to achieve the one million metric tonne target,” Ayimadu said.