Production of Ghana’s economic tree, cocoa, is under serious threat as hundreds of cocoa farmers, especially in the Western Region, are cutting down their cocoa farms for rubber plantation.
The worrying situation, if not checked, will threaten the country’s progress in fighting extreme hunger and poverty.
As a result of this, some opinion leaders in the region have called on the government to put measures in place to halt the problem
Major communities where the rubber plantation has taken over cocoa farming include Manso Amenfi, Wassa Dunkwa Yirase, Wassa Afransie, Anakom, Hiawa, Adaemanso, Anyinabirem, Kwaamang, Bonuama, Bawdie, Amuni, Nkakaa, Suroso Akyekyere, Pensanom, Bantama all in the Amenfi West, Amenfi Central and Amenfi East District of the Western Region, the leading region in cocoa production the Ghana.
Interacting with a cross-section of the farmers last week, they elucidated that rubber plantation was more lucrative than cocoa farm.
According to the farmers, working on cocoa farms was more difficult than rubber plantation.
They said they took the decision “because of lucrative purposes, and also blamed the Ghana Cocoa Board and for that matter government for neglecting their needs when it comes to cocoa farming.”
The farmers claimed that the money from rubber plantation comes quick unlike cocoa that takes years.
They also explained that their reason for abandoning cocoa farming was that, “it is a tedious job which demands spraying three in the year from the day of planting until the trees die.”
But with the rubber plantation, they said, “what a famer needs to do is to weed the farm which also does not cost so much.”
Madam Ama Ataa, one of the farmers who had cut down her cocoa trees and replaced them with rubber plantation, stressed that she did so because the farm was aging.
According to her, she inherited it from her late mum and when she realised that the cocoa trees were no longer bearing enough fruits, she decided to venture into rubber plantation.
“In fact, I have not regretted cutting down my cocoa tress. The rubber is very profitable and I’m making more money now than when I went into cocoa farming,” she told Ghananewsaid.com.
However, an opinion leader in Banatama, one of the affected communities, Stephen Boadu, told Ghananewsaid that he was not against the rubber plantation but the land the farmers were using for the rubber plantation was the problem.
His argument was that when “somebody plants rubber, he or she cannot plant any other tree or crop. But with cocoa, one can plant other crops as well.”
He cautioned that if farmers kept on planting rubbers they will lose all their foodstuff.
Scores of concerned farmers also made passionate appeal to the government to come up with regulations that will prevent farmers from cutting down trees unless they are infested with cocoa diseases.
COCOBOD, which regulates Ghana’s cocoa industry, recently stated that it was working to ensure that Ghana regained its spot as the top cocoa grower in the world, with an annual target of 1 million tonnes well in sight.
But that will obviously not be possible unless the cocoa farm displacement issues are fixed once and for all.
Chairman of the Concerned Farmers Association, Nana Boade, in a recent interview also called on government to do more to stop further destruction of farms, as it could have dire consequences on the country’s food security.
Rubber is a perennial plant grown traditionally as an important cash crop, which generates income as well as having a fundamental influence on the way of life for many rural people.
The price of rubber has generally increased due to world demand and the expansion of the world economy.
Additionally, China is demanding more natural rubber mainly for use in the manufacture of tyres.
Between 2006 and 2013, the average area of agricultural land devoted to rubber plantations increased from 14.37 million rai to 22.18 million rai.