US$1.5bn livelihood program for farmers championed
Adnan Adams Mohammed
The government is being called upon to consider establishing a US$1.5 billion commodity diversification and alternative
livelihood for cocoa farmers as well as the non- traditional export sector in the country.
The Alliance for Development and Industrialization (ADI) which spearheading the campaign has indicated that, the commodity diversification could triple the country’s agriculture export income within 3 to 4 years.
This will increase the country’s export earnings which will directly contribute to stabilizing the suffering local currency, while improving the lives of the people and also guarantee food sufficiency.
The government last week maintained the FOB price for cocoa for the next crop season which has generated a lot of backlash. But, ADI believes that this US$1.5 billion commodity diversification and alternative livelihood initiative for cocoa farmers could be done through Private Commercial Cocoa Management Company, (PCMC), which would supplement and improve the income for farmers.
COCOBOD in partnership with the famers would integrate the services of PCMCs and these companies would have a clear mandate of facility technology and provides services like automated farm management services.
The government should consider investment in seed material multiplication and distribution to increase output for commodities like avocado, cashew. It is estimated that only 150, 000 hectares of avocado can generate more revenue than cocoa.
ADI explains that the PCMC would be tasked by the government to manage all the cocoa farms in the country on behalf of the respective farmers- this has been piloted some time ago by the Master Card Foundation and proven to be successful.
This means that, the government in partnership with PCMC would now provide a technology driven management service which includes motorize pruning, slashing services as well as the current normal hand pollination introduced by the Ghana Cocoa Board, (Cocobod) on the various cocoa farms in the country.
“So the government would partner with the private organizations in the cocoa production while farmers could now concentrate on their alternative livelihood”, ADI said in a statement issued in Accra.
The ADI has proposed three stages for this alternative livelihood program for the cocoa famers which are the short, medium and long term. For the short term, crops that can be grown to show income within 3 to 12 months include sweet potato, and cocoyam. Additionally, rabbit and piggery rearing, poultry as well as fish farming could also be done. For the medium to long term which is from 9 months to 3 years, plantain could be considered as well as avocado which gives US$2000 per hectare within the first three years of cultivation.
An alternative livelihood of this nature is expected to create food security which would create long term sustainable path for food sufficiency and commercial agriculture in the country.
As much as cocoa is becoming less profitable on the international market, ADI is of the view that it would be prudent for farmers to partner PCMCs which is suppose to have Key Performance Index, (KPI), with the cocoa farmers.
This would create employment and also create revenue sharing module between the cocoa farmer and PCMCs.
This would also create opportunity for the young ones who are eager to enter into the cocoa industry, and would now remedy the prevailing situation where the average cocoa farmer is 52 years- this, would give an opportunity for the young generation to take over.
To this end, the ADI is requesting the government to invest in the PCMCs programs to achieve the objective of providing alternative livelihood and income improvement for the farmers in the country.
The PCMC module should clearly be a private sector driven and partial liberalization of cocoa management industry. This module should also be replicated in other sectors of the economy.
ADI, is also asking the government to look out for modern commodity trends and see how Ghana can lead with the prevailing suitable climate condition such as sweet potato, avocado, lime and lemonade, tiger nut, annatto, miracle berry, herbs and spices, passion fruits and plantation as well as other tropical crops.
The ADI, in its press statement is challenging the government to make this a leapfrog in the agric sector. It is also calling on the Internal Development Agencies (IDAs) to assist Ghana to champion these laudable initiatives.