All over the world, 14th February is celebrated as Valentine's Day annually. In Ghana, that day has metamorphosed into what is known as “National Chocolate Day.” This was initiated by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture in association with the Ghana Tourism Authority in 2005 and has since become a household name in Ghana.
The “National Chocolate Day” is further aimed at encouraging the consumption of chocolate, promoting domestic tourism among Ghanaians, and shifting the youth's attention from amorous relationships towards showcasing love to their loved ones through the gift of chocolate.
In line with keeping its policy of spending Chocolate Day with the farmers who toil to produce cocoa for chocolate, the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association of the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) in partnership with KPMG Ghana kicked off this year's Chocolate Day celebration with a visit to Akim Tafo, a cocoa growing community in the Eastern region of Ghana on Thursday, 9th February 2023. This was a follow-up to Association’s maiden Chocolate Day celebrations with farmers at Kwahu Bepong in 2019. The Alumni did not observe the celebrations for the years that the nation experienced Covid-19 pandemic lock down.
The UGBS team began the event with a trip to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG). Welcoming the delegation, the Executive Director of CRIG, Dr. Francis Kwame Padi expressed his delight at the visit and introduced his management team. In his introductory remarks, Dr. Kwaku Ofosu-Asare, President of the UGBS Alumni Association indicated that the Executives of the Alumni Association upon assuming office instituted a policy that the Chocolate Day celebrations should be about the farmers who toil to produce the cocoa and not about celebrations in the urban cities. " In celebrating Chocolate Day, the best people to deal with are the farmers,” he added. He further indicated that the programme was halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic but has now been reactivated.
Giving more highlights, Dr. Kwaku Ofosu-Asare disclosed that the visit to CRIG was through the efforts of Nana Dr. Michael Agyekum Addo, Nkabomhene (Chief of Unity) of the New Juaben Traditional Area who is also an alumnus. Emphasising further on the purpose of the visit, Dr. Ofosu-Asare indicated that their mission was to interact and share ideas on the illegal mining (galamsey) menace as well as share chocolate with the farmers.
Subsequently, the UGBS team was taken on a tour of the Institute beginning from the library. The team then moved to CIRG’s demonstration cocoa farm where the Executive Director pointed out that cocoa is the only tree that maintains the ecosystem of nature. He explained further a cocoa farm still needs to maintain the virgin primary trees, and the secondary trees as foliage and requires other flora and fauna species, unlike other farming activities that require total clearance of vegetation. On a visit to the Institute's laboratory known as the "Flavour Lab, Mr. Stephen Opoku the laboratory scientist highlighted the various processes that cocoa beans are taken through before being exported. He also gave details about the various fermentation process used at the lab to test the quality of the beans. He further indicated that Ghana's cocoa is considered one of the best hence it is used as a blend by all cocoa processors.
Addressing some invited farmers from the Akim Tafo area at a workshop, the Alumni President reiterated the fact that cocoa farmers should be at the centre of celebrations since it is their toil that brings out the chocolate, we all enjoy. Giving further explanation on the purpose of the workshop, Dr. Ofosu-Asare added that the meeting was to share ideas, get to know their challenges, visit their farmers, share chocolate with them, and also ideas about business opportunities from the cocoa value chain.
Giving a historical background of CRIG, Dr. Richard Adu-Acheampong, Deputy Executive Director (Cocoa & Kola) highlighted the objective of the setting up of CRIG. He further clarified that the advent of swollen shoot virus culminated in the need for further research into diseases that affect cocoa hence CRIG was established. He further gave an account of the various interventions that were used historically as a treatment for the cocoa plants disease such as the use of kerosine, DDT, and many others but with the advent of technology, more effective agrochemicals are now used. He also mentioned the numerous corrupt practices that the farmers and traders have used in selling out insecticides and fertilizers and called for their cessation.
Delivering a talk on the topic “Are Cocoa Farmers Safe from Galamsey or Small Scale Mining Activities," Mr. Richard Kofi Afenu Esq., the 2nd Vice President of the Alumni Association posited that illegal mining has become so endemic due to the perceived complexity of mineral licensing process; greed and ‘get-wealth-quick’ mentality; alternative livelihood projects not being attractive relative to quick returns from small scale mining; connivance of some chiefs, landowners and opinion leaders with illegal miners to mine minerals even in restricted areas; Ghanaians fronting for foreigners to operate in the small scale mining sub-sector; political interference and corruption. He added that the use of mercury has particularly been of concern as it poses health hazards to humans if they indeed enter the food chain. Giving more emphasis on the galamsey menace, Mr. Afenu indicated that a total of 19,000 hectares of cocoa farmlands have been destroyed due to illegal mining activities leading to loss of income to the farmers and the country.
He added that the destruction of cocoa farms through galamsey was pronounced in the Eastern, Western and Ashanti regions, from where more than 90 percent of the country’s total cocoa production comes. He suggested that as an interim solution to the problem, COCOBOD and the Minerals Commission should share information on the location of cocoa farms across the country to enable the Minerals Commission to stop licensing such areas for mining activities.
He ended his session by stating that the war against illegal mining is a collective responsibility and local government structures have active roles to play. Illegal mining is now more of a security issue than a social issue. He further advised that DCEs and MCEs who are heads of DISEC AND MUSEC respectively should be held responsible for any illegal mining activity within their jurisdictions. A galamsay-free district or municipal should be a major consideration in the assessment criteria for the performance of DCEs and MCEs.
Outlining their challenges, some of the farmers hinted that some of their landowners are opting for galamsey instead of using their lands for cocoa farming. They also bemoaned the high cost of agro-inputs while the producer price of cocoa remains the same. The farmers also expressed regret about not getting any revenue from all the by-products of cocoa.
Responding to the farmers, Dr. Richard Adu-Acheampong, the Deputy Executive Director indicated that together with the Alumni Association, a policy brief will be drafted and forwarded to the appropriate authorities for action. He further admonished the farmers to work as cooperatives to enable them to bargain for better prices for their agro-inputs.
Making brief remarks, Nana Dr. Michael Agyekum Addo informed the farmers of a private company that buys the cocoa husk. He further encouraged the farmers to have a united front to fight anyone who would want to take over their lands for galamsey.
In a similar development, the UGBS team together with the other stakeholders visited the cocoa farm of Mr. Robert Narh at Akyem Asafo. In his interaction, Mr. Narh lamented how galamsey has destroyed most of his crops revealing how he had to spend most of his time and energy digging trenches to direct the poisonous water out of his farm. He further mentioned how all the water bodies have dried out hence he has to look for water and store it for irrigation. He pleaded for the government's intervention in solving the galamsey canker.
The event ended with sharing and eating of chocolates as well as an admonition from the President of the Alumni Association to the cocoa farmers and all present to join in the fight against galamsey since it has an immense effect on the nation.
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