Poor roads lock up tonnes of cocoa at Bia East

Tonnes of cocoa and foodstuff are stuck in some farming communities   in the Bia East District in the Western Region due to the poor road network following the government suspension of construction works on cocoa roads initiated by the previous administration.

The situation has caused some of the farmers who produce in large scale farming to incur huge financial debts as most of their produce is gone waste in the farm lands.

Hon. Richard Acheampong, Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bia East constituency, made this known to The Republic after he had asked the Minister for Roads and Highways about the bad roads in the constituency in Accra last Friday.

He told the paper, farmers who used to produce over 50 or 100 bags of cocoa and other foodstuff to market centres could barely get 10 bags now to sell due to the bad nature of roads in the district.

Posing two separate questions to the Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr. Acheampong, said, “Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister for Roads and Highways when the Nkrankwata-to- Adabokrom road will be completed?”

In the second question, the MP wanted to also know from the minister, when the construction of the Adabokrom Rowan roads and the Adobokrom-to-Akwanpbengkrom road will be completed.

However, in response, a Deputy Minister of Roads and Highways, Mr. Kwabena Owusu Aduomi, said the Nkrankwanta-Adabokrom road is a 21.3km road and it links to Nkrankwanta  in the Dormaa West District in Brong Ahafo and Adabokrom in the Bia East District in the Western Region.

According to the Deputy Minister, the contract was awarded on 18th February, 2016, for the upgrading of Nkrankrom-Adabokrom road which is 10 km and work on the road commenced on 20th April, 2016 to be completed by 19th October, 2017.

He said the project, which is being financed by the COCOBOD, has since May, 2017 been suspended to enable COCOBOD to undertake a general audit and review of the projects across the country.

“Mr. Speaker, the project is being financed by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and is currently estimated at 39% physical completion. When completed the road will have a bituminous surfacing.”

“COCOBOD has since May, 2017, directed all contractors working on COCOBOD-funded road projects to suspend works with immediate effect. This is to enable COCOBOD undertake a general review and rationalization of projects. The contractor has accordingly suspended work,” the Deputy Minister told Parliament.

Mr. Aduomi noted that, engineering designs studies on the road have been conducted on the remaining 11.3km stretch to Adabokrom for upgrading when funds available, stating,”the ministry does not have full control over roads funds to execute the projects.”

On the Adabokrom town roads, the minister said, there is no existing contract to upgrade the roads, but the main Adabokrom road formed part of Debiaso Adabokrom feeder road of 25.1km  which was awarded in August 2008, under the Cocoa Roads Improvement Project (CRIP) for upgrading to bituminous surfacing.

The CRIP feeder project, he noted, was completed in 2010, but another section of the Adabokrom town roads falls within the Adabokrom to Akwarbenkrom feeder road which has been awarded on contact under the COCOBOD funded projects for bituminous surfacing in the region.

Mr. Aduomi further told parliament, “the 10km Adabokrom-Akwarbenkrom road formed part of the Adabokrom-Adiembra inter-district connector between the Bia East and Dormaa West districts in the Western and Brong Ahafo regions respectively.”

He added that, the contract for the upgrading of Adabokrom-Akwarbengkrom road to bituminous surfacing was awarded in October, 2015, stating, work commenced in February 2016, and was expected to be completed in February 2017.

The Deputy Minister explained that, though the contractual completion date has expired, progress of work on the road has been slow due to government inability to pay the contractor.

The actual scope of work on the road, he said, “comprised  clearing of road side vegetation, construction of culverts and concrete U-drains, filling of culverts approaches, laying of  sub base and base course, bituminous surfacing and road signs and line marking.”

Again, he said, the project is being funded by the COCOBOD and is currently estimated at 34% physical completion and some of the work done so far includes the provision of 10km base course and primer-seal of the section of work done of about 4km, stressing that the completion of the project depend heavily on prompt payment by the government through the COCOBOD.

Nevertheless, the Deputy Roads Minister said, engineering design studies for upgrading of Adabokrom town roads is in consideration stage of government policies on roads on or by second quarters of 2018.

But Hon. Acheampong said the bad nature of the roads has caused  some farmers to transport their cocoa, using head porters or wheelbarrows  to carry cocoa beans from  their farms to safe locations.

He called for immediate intervention by the government and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to shape the roads and repair collapsed bridges to ensure easy transportation to avert smuggling and reduction quality of the dried beans.

He told this paper exclusively that, without government intervention to upgrade the roads, evacuating cocoa from Adabokrom and its communities and other heavy producing areas in the district for haulage to Takoradi for onward shipment had become a problem.

Apart from cocoa, many of the communities produce tonnes of plantain, oil palm, cassava and other foodstuffs.

For that, Mr. Acheampong said currently the only option for the cocoa farmers was to head to the nearest market, stating, If care is not taken and nothing is done immediately, Ghana would lose more cocoa to its neigbouring Cote d’Ivoire, which will be bad news and a serious issue for the country economy.

“There are farm produce wasting in my constituency, Bia East,  while thousands of people are going hungry in Ghana.These farm produce cannot get to the people due to bad roads. Bia East is one of the major producer of cocoa, cassava, yams and plantain and maize among others.

“I want to use this medium to appeal to the government and the COCOBOD, to come to the rescue. The contract for this road has been awarded to improve our cocoa farmers years back but nothing has been done and think something must be done,”Mr. Acheampong lamented.

The previous government commenced the Cocoa Roads Project, aimed at improving road networks in cocoa communities with the view to ensuring access to remote cocoa areas as well as creating a congenial environment to promote the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.

Among other things, it is to solve the challenges associated with carting cocoa beans from the farm gates to buying centers and also to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.



Source:therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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