Cocoa farmers to picket at Flagstaff House

Cocoa farmers in and around Bodi, Juaboso and Sewfi-Akontomnbra farming communities in the Western Region have served notice that, should the government fail or refuse to review its rigid policies on cocoa, they will have no option but to storm the Flagstaff House, to register their displeasure.

According to the farmers, the government’s arbitrary decision to cancel or abolish the free distribution of fertilizer progamme, started by the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, is not only destroying their cocoa, but negatively affecting their livelihood as cocoa farmers.

The cocoa farmers at Bodi, Juanoso, Akonbptombra, and other adjoining communities, who said they have been farming for well over 30 years now, expressed their concerns to The Republic exclusively at Bodi last Monday.

They told the paper the 2017 cocoa farming season had witnessed serious meltdown growth, as tonnes of cocoa had been destroyed by disease.

They blamed the current government for introducing anti-cocoa policies which had succeeded in destroying tonnes of cocoa in the farms.
Paul Gyambeng, is a cocoa farmer at Bodi District. He told this paper exclusively that, his cocoa had gone rotten in the farm as a result of his inability to procure some pesticides or chemicals to ward off pest and control disease.

This, he said, is costing him thousands of Ghana cedis, because he hired labours to help in the farm with the expectation of government’s intervention with chemicals but it never happened.

“I am a cocoa farmer and I have been farming for well over 35 years. This is because cocoa farming has been our occupation. I grew up here with my parents and this is what we depend on for years now. I have six cocoa farms and each farm is about four acres. I used to farm all of them with the help of my wife and children. Some time I also hire labours to help speed up when the season demands,” he said.

He further told the paper, though they had experienced poor production a decade ago, the mass cocoa spraying introduced by former President John Kufuor and continued by late former President John Evans Mills had helped them tremendously.

In addition to that, he said, they used to buy fertilizer which was very expensive judging from the proceeds from the cocoa against investment on the farm, but the introduction of a free distribution of fertilizer under former President John Mahama had helped them. They were only concentrating on labour, hence they experienced good harvest in the last three years.

Gyambeng said, he was shocked to hear in the news and through the district chief executive that, the Nana Addo government has abolished the free distribution of fertilizer and replaced it with subsidy price at GHc80.00 per bag.

Sounding very angry over the development in the cocoa sector under the current government, Jacob Kofi Afum, another cocoa farmer, said the government decision to cancel the free distribution of fertilizer and sell to them at GHc80.00 was not only insensitive but disingenuous to their already rangy plight.

For him, until the government reversed the decision and re-distributed the fertilizer free to cocoa farmers, he and his household would never vote again.

Kwame Nsiah is also a cocoa farmer in the Juaboso District. He told the paper, the current policies by the government have worsened their lives as farmers and made them to know that politicians cannot be trusted.

According to him, before the 2016 general elections, then candidate Akufo-Addo told them (farmers), he would introduce policies that would improve the cocoa sector better than President John Mahama and that they should vote for him.

As a result, he said, the leadership of cocoa farmers association joined to the chorus and pressed upon them to cast their votes for Nana Addo, with the high hope that the free fertilizer that John Mahama was giving them would be doubled to enable them to have good harvest. But unfortunately, they have come to realize that they were deceived.
He threatened that, if by next farming season the government failed to revert to the free fertilizer distributing system as started by former President John Mahama, they would storm the presidency to register their displeasure.

“My brother, I want you to put me on air, tell the President, Nana Akufo-Addo that we, cocoa farmers in Bodi and Juaboso, are coming to Accra, we are coming to the Flagstaff House, to show him how he deceived us and we won’t sit down quiet.”

“We use to have our cocoa spray free, we get fertilizer free. All these under Mahama government. But now we asked to buy fertilizer GhC80.00, we are now buying chemicals and the worst of all is that we don’t even get them to buy, when you go to the shops, they say, it is finished, we don’t have fertilizer, we don’t have pesticide, but when the thing was free, it was there for us, how is this possible, my brother (Our Reporter), why? Why is the Akufo- Addo government doing this to us,” Mr. Ndiah lamented.

On the part of Josephine Wuin, a female cocoa farmer, she said, she had her cocoa rotten because, she could not access fungicide and pesticides to spray the farm.

She expressed bitterness against the government policies and assured to join in a protest against the policies in the coming season if nothing happens in the sector.

Kwame Badu Kakyrer, a young cocoa farmer, said taking away free fertilizer would discourage the youth from venturing into cocoa farming.

The mass action, he said, is aimed at showing their displeasure towards the premeditated neglect of cocoa farmers, especially those who cannot afford to buy the fertilizer, stating, “We take exception to the illegal and arbitrary subsidy of GHC80.00 and abandoning of our roads by the government.”

Other female cocoa farmers, like Josephine, said the abolishing of the free fertilizer and replaced same with free senior high school policies is the most insensitive policy, arguing that, the free SHS could not replace free fertilizer.

The minority caucus in parliament has on several occasions gave wise counsel to the government not to remove the free distribution of fertilizer policy to cocoa farmers, on grounds that, it could affect production of cocoa in the country.

Hon. Sampson Ahi, MP for Bodi, told the paper government is deliberately inflicting hardship on cocoa farmers who labour years upon years to push the nation’s development to this level.
He maintains the minority in parliament would continue to hold the government responsible and to ensure that the anti-cocoa-farmer policies of suspension of cocoa roads, cancellation of free distribution of fertilizer and inadequate supply of chemicals for mass spraying are restored.

The Bodi lawmaker intimated that, it was surprising that the NPP government that claimed to be pro-cocoa farmers government did not budget for cocoa farmers in its 2017 budget and described it as “insensitive.” Engsalige Nyaaba, Bodi/WR

The Republic News Online

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