Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs lauds COCOBOD, Solidaridad in efforts to enhance livelihoods of women cocoa farmers

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lauded efforts by Ghana Cocoa Board and Solidaridad in enhancing the livelihoods of women cocoa farmers through sustainable cocoa production and additional livelihoods activities.

A delegation from the Ministry led by officials of the Netherlands Embassy in Accra and Solidaridad West Africa visited some cocoa farms at Babianiha in the Central region to observe the production processes and challenges associated with cocoa production.

Two rain-fed cocoa farms were visited. In these farms, almost all the young cocoa plants had died due to the dry spell. Additionally, matured cocoa trees had no pods on them. The devastating effect of climate change has led to delays in rainfall this year.

But a visit to an irrigated cocoa farm painted a different picture. Each tree had several pods on it and the trees looked healthy because of constant soil moisture.

“When I was planting the cocoa, I experienced harsh weather and it was very challenging for me. So, I decided to embrace irrigation after Cocobod explained to us the benefit of the facility. Since I started irrigating my farm, I’ve tripled my yields and I harvest all year round”, a cocoa farmer, Leticia Yankey told the delegation.

The team was impressed with the irrigation system.

“Many of the cocoa beans that are produced here come to the Netherlands and we want to make sure that the beans are produced in a sustainable way. We feel responsible as a government to champion responsible and sustainable production. I am really impressed by the collective empowerment of the women but I have also observed how climate change is affecting production in some farms and we have to do something to sustain production.

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“The irrigation needs are important for increased productivity and it must be encouraged”, leader of the delegation, Wieneke Vullings noted.

The team also inspected a Rural Service Centre established to support cocoa farms in and around Dunkwa-On-Offin enclave. The Center was set up by the Women in Cocoa Cooperative (Cocoa Mmaa) with support from Solidaridad West Africa.

They interacted with the women cocoa farmers who mentioned difficulty in accessing credit facilities and farm inputs among other challenges as impeding their effort to expand their faming business.

Cocoa Mmaa is a cooperative that mobilizes over 600 women cocoa farmers in the Upper Denkyira East District to provide support to one another. Competing demands for youthful labor by illegal small-scale miners makes it difficult to get farm hands. Cocoa Mmaa established an RSC to provide farm labour and management services to solve this challenge and support the women to improve their productivity, with CORIP facilitating access to GHS 167,000 in concessional financing for this purpose. The women have also been supported to set up VSLAs to enhance their access to microcredit.

“Currently the climate is wreaking havoc in several cocoa farms and women are the ones who are disproportionately impacted. That’s why we are focusing on women and how they can adapt to climate change. So, there is the need to introduce artificial irrigation in the cocoa sector for sustainability purposes. We are speaking to financial institutions to design leasing product for irrigation facilities for those interested in the cocoa sector. Currently, the upfront cost is very high and we are trying to work around to see how we can get it around 30 percent of the current cost and still achieve the same results”, programs manager of CORIP II, Hammond Mensah stated.

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The team later visited the regional office of COCOBOD and the Upper Denkyira East Assembly to engage with officials on way forward to improve the cocoa sector.

By Ibrahim Abubakar|3news.com|Ghana