Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the cocoa industry have called on the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBO) and its related agencies to ensure equitable distribution of resources and services for all cocoa farmers in the country.
They made the call at a National Stakeholder Dialogue on findings of a research report dubbed "Assessing Farm Gate Pricing and Income of Cocoa Farmers".
The event was organised by SEND Ghana in partnership with INKOTA netzwerk and Rainforest Alliance.
The study approach involved both desktop review and field work components.
The field work undertaken in July and August 2018 involved personal interviews of 90 randomly-selected farmers, two focus- group meetings, in-depth interviews with two purchasing clerks, one chief cocoa farmer, three sub-chiefs, one Agona East District Assembly Representative and the Paramount Chief of the Agona Nsaba Traditional Area.
The dialogue created a platform for stakeholders to discuss issues and develop a road map that seeks to bring the necessary changes in the cocoa pricing regime with the aim of ensuring that farmers are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Among issues discussed were inconsistent producer price, limited participation of women in government intervention, undiversified livelihood alternatives, and weighing scale adjustment fraud, perpetuated by purchasing clerks/depots.
Mr George Osei-Bimpeh, Country Director of SEND Ghana, noted that there were a number of issues that affected the welfare and livelihood of cocoa farmers, and that, advocacy in the sector was not well structured.
He underscored the need for CSOs to work with cocoa farmers to set the agenda that would ensure that concerns of welfare and livelihood were tackled in concerted manner to enable farmers become ultimate beneficiaries.
Mr Osei-Bimpeh said already the COCOBOD had made lots of commitment in terms of what they were doing to address concerns that came out of the study; stating that on the other hand, SEND Ghana would continue to monitor the implementation of such commitments.
Mr Asafu Adjei, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agric and Cocoa Affairs, described price in the industry as a major incentive for farmers, saying, "Give the farmer a good price and let him buy his fertilizer, pesticides and others".
He also called on chiefs within the cocoa-growing communities to make lands available for the younger generation to help motivate them to venture into cocoa farming.
Dr Emmanuel Opoku, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, said this year, License Buying Companies (LBCs) would be compelled to use electronic scales, as this would end the perceived weighing adjustment fraud.
He noted the Board would also scale up the rehabilitation of diseased farms and over aged farms.
Dr Opoku stated that the Board would soon implement its Cocoa Management System (CMS), a database which would see to the registration of all cocoa farmers; and would be useful for cost-effective policy implementation and in delivering major interventions in the cocoa sector.
Mr Ismaila Pomasi, Chairperson of Cocoa Abrabopa Association, representing the farmers, said mass spraying exercise and fertilizer distribution programmes should be strengthened, as this could increase cocoa incomes.
He also encouraged cocoa farmers to collaborate and form cooperatives for financial support, saying, as individuals, it would be difficult to easily access loans at the bank.
Mr Edward Kareweh, General Secretary of Ghana Agricultural Workers' Union, who chaired the event, said farmers had a role to play in efforts towards enhancing the sustainability of the cocoa industry.
He said issues concerning the weighing scale adjustment, fraud could be resisted by the farmers, as, such practices were done on the blind side of COCOBOD and workers who were suppose to supervise.