The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has rolled out a comprehensive data gathering exercise to improve the management of the sector.
This follows the successful piloting of the exercise in selected cocoa-growing communities, during which about 1,000 farmers were captured and issued with their cocoa identification cards (CICs).
Known as the Cocoa Management System (CMS), the exercise will collect detailed information on cocoa farmers and their farms, as well as other stakeholders operating in the sector.
The information gathered from the cocoa sector census is meant to provide the industry regulator and the government with concrete and verified data on the cocoa sector and its stakeholders for the purpose of improved management of the sector.
For decades, the management of the sector has been based on guesswork and extrapolations on the number of farmers and their farms, the sizes and the locations, a situation that the board said made planning difficult.
The COCOBOD is hoping to register a minimum of 1.2 million cocoa farmers, out of the estimated 800,000 cocoa households producing the crop in seven cocoa-growing regions nationwide.
Among the pieces of information to be gathered in the national exercise are the number of cocoa farmers, the managers of the farms, farm sizes and nature and the exact locations of the farms.
The exercise, which will be carried out at a cost of $10.69 million, will also take stock of purchasing clerks and their locations.
Enumerated farmers are to be issued with CICs that will be linked to the National Identification System (NIS), with the cards becoming primary identity documents for the farmers for the purposes of input supplies, the provision of extension and other agronomy services, the purchase of beans, among others.
This came to light over the weekend when the board hosted senior journalists to a day's sensitisation programme on the CMS at Ada in the Greater Accra Region.
It was meant to sensitise participants to the rationale for the exercise, its benefits and implementation procedures and timelines ahead of the official launch tomorrow, October 21.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo, said in his opening remarks that the exercise was long overdue and its results would represent a game changer for the industry.
He said the data to be gathered would generally enhance COCOBOD’s activities by making its forecasting effective and the management and execution of interventions based on verified information.
“For a long time, there has not been any structured information on cocoa farmers. What exist are estimates. When you talk about people in the cocoa industry, we normally mention a figure like 800,000 households, but as to how many people are involved, nobody really knows,” he said.
“Given the importance of the sector, it is good to get a concrete database and use that to address major concerns raised by stakeholders,” he added.
The CEO explained that one of the aims of the exercise was to capture the age profile of the people who owned and worked on the farms.
Beyond giving the board a bio-data on cocoa sector workers, he said, the age profile of the workers was necessary to permanently address growing concerns by Ghana’s cocoa buyers that child labour was pronounced on cocoa farms.
He said the exercise would further empower the board with the exact locations of farms in the country, with the aim to address the concern by European and American buyers that cocoa farming was destroying protected lands in the country.
Mr. Aidoo said the verified data would also be used by the board to determine the exact quantities of inputs to procure and how to distribute them to help avoid shortages and other challenges suffered under the current system.
Furthermore, he said, the data would be vital to the board in the planned introduction of a pension for farmers, as well as the rolling out of extension services on weeding, pruning, harvesting, among others.
He was confident that the CMS would be robust by capturing data on farm and soil types, the fertility of the areas, among others, for the purpose of effective extension services.
He, therefore, called on farmers and other stakeholders to support the exercise to make it successful for the good of the industry and the country as a whole.
The Deputy CEO in charge of Operations at the COCOBOD, Dr. Emmanuel Opoku, said the board had contracted an information technology (IT) entity, Digital Innova, to develop a database software that would be used to execute the project.