Mahama’s Cocoa Legacy In Brief
1. Former President Mahama’s statements at Bibiani offered nothing new to the cocoa farmers in that community, the Sefwi enclave or the Western North Region at large.
2. His empty promises fall pitifully short of what the present management of COCOBOD, with the full backing of President Akufo Addo’s government, is doing for cocoa farmers and cocoa communities by way of interventions and programmes.
3. The truth is that the John Dramani Mahama led NDC government is the worst thing to have happened to Ghana’s cocoa farmers in the nation’s recent political history.
4. There isn’t a single innovative intervention which one can point to as having been introduced by John Mahama’s government for the cocoa sector, and which more importantly, can be said to have had a lasting positive impact on the cocoa sector.
5. The one million metric tonnes of cocoa production he so eagerly mentioned at Biniani, was achieved under President Mills, and in fact, under Mahama’s government, production levels began to decline.
6. Indeed, the decline in productivity continued even after his government took the easy and unsustainable route of giving fertilizers for free because they couldn’t come up with a robust solution to the production decline. They rather created a cocoa fertiliser smuggling ring for NDC party people, leading to the sighting of Ghana’s fertilisers in neighbouring countries.
7. The damaging impact of the Mahama government’s catastrophic handling of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) is something the country is still recovering from. Cocoa farmers across the country, including those in the Western North Region, were given far less support by the Mahama government than they needed to fight the disease.
8. The result of this limited support was the further spread of the disease to more farms, and the near destruction of the local economies of many cocoa communities. People were also forced to desert their hamlets and farms they’ve worked on for years because in a short period they were devastated by CSSVD.
9. Also, the Mahama NDC government had no intention or plan to construct roads in Bibiani. In his haste to find fault, he stood before the chief and the rest of the people to once again lie by claiming he will complete abandoned cocoa projects in the Bibiani-Aanhwiaso-Bekwai district, even though his administration did not award any cocoa road contract in the district.
The Current Management’s Transformation
1. The present management of COCOBOD is no doubt unmatched when it comes to creating, planning and rolling out innovative solutions to challenges faced by cocoa farmers, their communities and the cocoa sector at large.
2. This has been demonstrated through the introduction of Mass Pruning, Hand Pollination, the Cocoa Farm Rehabilitation Programme and the introduction of Motorised Slashers.
3a. The Western North Region, where Bibiani is located, is a major beneficiary of the Cocoa Farm Rehabilitation Programme, in particular. The current management took a far more aggressive approach to fight the disease and this approach has proven to be very effective.
3b. The decision was taken for COCOBOD to bear the cost of removing hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm areas infected with CSSVD, to oversee the cutting down and replanting of cocoa trees on farms and to provide compensation to both the affected farmers and their landowners. Today, many farmers who left their disease ravaged farms are returning to freshly restored farms made possible by COCOBOD and the government.
4a. In addition to the above-mentioned interventions is the courageous pursuit of the Living Income Differential (LID), so, that cocoa farmers can earn more money for their labour and be able to afford improved standards of living.
4b. The LID simply means that in addition to whichever price Ghana sells its cocoa within a season, the country will earn USD400 extra for every tonne of cocoa beans. As such, hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue apart from what the country would have normally made will now begin to flow into the country when cocoa is sold.
4c. Indeed, it is projected that this year alone some about US$360 million will be earned from LID. This is a major leap in revenue from cocoa sales and good news for cocoa farmers. All this have been made possible by the ingenuity of the present management of COCOBOD, with the full backing of President Akufo Addo
5. On the construction of cocoa roads, it is instructive to note that some contracts have already been awarded through national competitive tender after the lessons learnt from the improper handling of similar contracts by the past government. Contractors have started mobilizing to their various sites and other contracts will also be awarded soon.