Cocoa farmers threaten demo over implementation of pension scheme

Joseph Boahen Aidoo is the CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board
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Members of the Ghana National Cocoa Farmers Association have kicked against decision by officials of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to carry out the implementation of cocoa farmers pension scheme through a newly inaugurated board of trustees. 

They have threatened to embark on a massive demonstration if government carry on with the decision.

A press statement they issued said : ““Regardless of the fact that COCOBOD has inaugurated the Board of Trustee of the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme to undertake the implementation of the Cocoa Farmers pension scheme which was said to be rolled on Pilot basis, starting from New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region. The Ghana National Cocoa Farmers Association (GNACOFA, hereinafter called “the Association”) is not convinced about the genuineness of the Scheme’s implementation.

“We the Association (GNACOFA) together with the Wassa branch of the COCOSHIE group, Small HolderCocoa Farmers group of co-operatives, Concerned Cocoa Farmers groups (47 communities), and other Cocoa Farmers groups have carefully considered the proposal by COCOBOD which has left the executives of the Ghana National Cocoa Farmers, Small Holder Cocoa Farmers and other Cooperatives in consternation. We therefore want to express our concerns with regard to the implementation and the commissioning of the Board to manage the scheme which we the Association believed have left the beneficiaries of the scheme behind, without any consultation.”

Below is the full statement…

PRESS CONFERENCE

GHANA NATIONAL COCOA FARMERS ASSOCIATION (GNACOFA)

ALL MEDIA HOUSE

MAIN STREAM MEDIA AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIA   Wednesday 3rd November 2021

“Regardless of the fact that COCOBOD has inaugurated the Board of Trustee of the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme to undertake the implementation of the Cocoa Farmers pension scheme which was said to be rolled on Pilot basis, starting from New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region. The Ghana National Cocoa Farmers Association (GNACOFA, hereinafter called “the Association”) is not convinced about the genuineness of the Scheme’s implementation.

“We the Association (GNACOFA) together with the Wassa branch of the COCOSHIE group, Small HolderCocoa Farmers group of co-operatives, Concerned Cocoa Farmers groups (47 communities), and other Cocoa Farmers groups have carefully considered the proposal by COCOBOD which has left the executives of the Ghana National Cocoa Farmers, Small Holder Cocoa Farmers and other Cooperatives in consternation. We therefore want to express our concerns with regard to the implementation and the commissioning of the Board to manage the scheme which we the Association believed have left the beneficiaries of the scheme behind, without any consultation.

We hereby wish to state our position and concerns as follows:

  1. PENSION

a) COCOBOB is a state entity mandated by law to set up a mandatory pension scheme for farmers, which for over 36years has failed, refused, neglected to fulfil its legal mandate as stipulated by law under PNDCL 81.Regardless of the fact that COCOBOD has set-up a Board for the Scheme, we farmers have no faith in COCOBOD and the genuineness of the Scheme’s implementation as the chairman of the Association though a member of the board was never invited during the inauguration of the board.

b) Also, It took the intervention of the Association to bring the issue of establishing farmers pension scheme to the attention of COCOBOD, even so, what has been unveiled by the government is akin to a pension scheme under Section 106 of the National Pensions Act (Act 766) and not as mandated by Law under PNDCL 81.

c) Though, the association welcomes the government effort in ensuring the implementation of Pension Scheme for Cocoa Farmers, the Association is disappointed in the way and the manner the implementation is ongoing (on a pilot basis as proposed by COCOBOD).

d) In fact, if it is the case that COCOBOD wants to establish a provident fund (government contributing 1% whiles farmers contribute 4%) for Cocoa Farmers then why not allow Cocoa Farmers to willingly join an informal sector fund like that of Spare Parts dealers Association, Ghana Road Transport Union of TUC and Progressive Transport Owners Association which have already been set-up and administered by private Corporate Trustee.

e) Besides, the said members are happy with the operations and administration of the scheme that cocoa farmers are still fighting to join free from government interference. The Informal sector Pension Scheme is by law applicable to private institution and associations like cocoa farmers as well as other co-operative farming schemes. Cocoa farmers lack of retirement financial security, future livelihood and better health/welfare packages to sustain Cocoa farming business in the country, is a treat to the industry as a whole.

  • SMALL HOLDER COCOA FARMERS REPRESENTED BY GNACOFA HAS SEPERATED FROM COCOSHIE
  • GNACOFA which represents Small Holder Cocoa Farmers has separated from COCOSHE on the basis that, though COCOSHIE has existed for over 30 years (since 1984) it has failed to make  any meaningful impact on the lives of Cocoa Farmers in Ghana.
  • We the Small Holder Cocoa Farmers represented by GNACOFA, states our position clear today, 3rd November 2021 that Ghana National Cocoa Farmers Association (GNACOFA) is the representative body which represents Small Holder Cocoa Farmers (SHCF) in Ghana and also to serve as voice of the ordinary Small Holder Cocoa Farmers in Ghana.
  • The mandate of the Association is to bring together all Cocoa Farmers in the country to present a unified front to champion our common goal and to protect the interest of farmers toward positive growth and development. GNACOFA confirms today that it has no affiliation and no business with COCOSHE.  

d) GNACOFA is bringing together all Cocoa Farmers in Ghana by serving as a platform for farmers to voice out their concerns and to initiate development oriented activities to improve their livelihoods.

e) The failure on the part of COCOBOD to protect Cocoa Farmers and by using COCOSHE, which for a long time has been an inactive Association (registration documents of COCOSHIE has not been renewed for over 20 years) as a shield to defend its action and inactions against Cocoa Farmers, is inimical and prejudicial to the wellbeing of Cocoa Farmers whose sweat and hard labour continues to enrich this country.

f) Cocoa Farmers are deeply disappointed with the treatment of their members by COCOBOD as it has on many occasions refused to meet the representatives of Cocoa Farmers especially GNACOFA.


g) Meanwhile Cocoa Farmers are the Key Stakeholders and the beneficiaries of the Pension Scheme as envisage under section 26 of PNDCL 81, yet the representatives of the Cocoa Farmers are yet to play a role in fashioning out the concept of the scheme, its operational strategies and monitory contributions.

i) We therefore reject the idea of an imposed pension scheme on Cocoa Farmers who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the said Scheme. We view this as an attempt by COCOBOD to silence farmers by excluding their thoughts, ideas, and inputs.

J) Indeed, it is our considered view that the attempt on the part of the COCOBOD to exclude the farmers associations as being  inconsistent with the letter, spirit and  policy objectives that underlined Section 26 of the PNDCL 81.

  • HEALTH INSURANCE
  • GNACOFA proposes a Mutual Health Insurance Scheme as supplementary to NHIS for farmer’s health care to be supported by the COCOBOD just like its staffs enjoy free medical care from Cocoa Clinic on Cocoa Farmer’s hard work and sweat, yet farmers must pay for their own medical care from the pennies they earn.
  • GNACOFA proposes that Cocoa Farmers bonuses and premiums be used to cover the extra cost to NHIS as Farmers Mutual Health Care to safeguard the health of Cocoa Farmers.
  • FARM SUPPORT: AGRO CHEMICAL INPUT SUPPLY
  • GNACOFA proposes that the provision of Mass Spraying, Pollination, Pruning, Fertilizer, Agro Input supply as well as Extension officer’s services to Small Holder Cocoa Farmers be based on support from Cocoa generated fund not from the Common Fund to ensure constant cash flow for these important exercises.

COCOA FARMERS WELFARE CAN NOT SUBTITUTED AS FARM SUPPORT

  1. Profit/surplus of Cocoa generated income is reserved for the supply of Mass Spray, Pollination, Pruning, Fertilizer, and Agro Chemical.
  • POLICY MAKERS NEVER INCLUDE FARMERS IN DECISION MAKING AND DOES NOT ADDRESS THEIR CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS
  • Policy maker takes decisions on Cocoa farming activities without involving Cocoa Famers which is inimical and prejudicial to the right and wellbeing of farmers.

b) Most decisions taken by the policy makers and government representatives on Cocoa Farmers affairs never addresses the challenges and concerns of the farmers whose wellbeing is vital to the growth and development of the Cocoa industry in Ghana.

  • COCOA FARMERS ARE PRIVATE ENTITY (ENTERPRISE) NOT COCOBOD WORKERS

a) Cocoa farms in Ghana are owned by private individual farmers and managed as private enterprises. Government and COCOBOD do not own share in any farmer’s business. This means that Cocoa Farmers are not workers of COCOBOD.

  • COCOA MASS SPRAY EFFECT

a) Most of the Cocoa spraying machines hired by COCOBOD on mass spraying have affected Cocoa Farmers adversely due to the effect of poisonous chemicals. COCOBOD as CONTRACTOR of the project does not make any provision for safety, to safeguard the lives of Cocoa Farmers. As a result, this has affected several sprayers/farmers with various long term infections like:  swollen feet – peripheral edema, eczema, puffy cheeks etc.

  • COCOA REHABILITATION RATE OF GHC 1,000.00 AS AGAINST THAT OF RUBER PLANTAINTION REHABILITATION RATE GHC 100,000.00
  • We believe the rehabilitation amount for Cocoa Farmers is woefully inadequate and same must be increased.

DATED IN KUMASI THIS ………….DAY OF NOVEMBER 2021

BY:THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF GNACOFA (MR. STEVENSON ANANE BOATENG)

Source: 3news.com|Ghana