CAL salutes Ghana's gallant farmers

Gold did not make anybody rich Pre-independence. We had a very few people who had a bit of gold here and there. We've always had a lot of timber and many other things. But the point is, nothing really made anybody rich in Ghana except farming. In the development of this country, our demographics are the same as most of the world, everybody was poor. The middle class develops and then the upper class also develops. But the first clearly distinct middle class and upper class that we were able to develop in this country were what we called farmers. Cocoa Farmers for that matter. The first set of really rich people who became rich not because they were inheritors or because of industry, were farmers who were into cash crops.

If you travel to the hinterlands in the country, you could see that all the better buildings there were built by these farmers. You can see these structures are more viable than the new buildings we are building today. Those old buildings were built by Cocoa Farmers in those villages and towns, and they were better built, well structured, better engendered and were straight. These were the people who rose and became rich middle class and upper class people in those days.

One thing we need to appreciate in this country as a people is that, cocoa was the means by which we developed a viable middle class and viable demographic of rich people. And those people have been very important to this country, going through that independence struggle and the rest. People like Paa Grant and co had a lot to do with the financing in the section and also people who had made money in different areas.

If you take the University of Ghana, it was built specifically by putting a levy on every single cocoa bag that was sold in this country. That's how the University of Ghana was  built. The truth is that, cocoa is more important than we may have admitted. But another truth is that, in the evolution of Ghana as a country, we had independence and we had the introduction of COCOBOD. Kwame Nkrumah, saw that industry as an important industry and built a solid government system around it to help it. And COCOBOD, at least in the first few decades of its existence seem to have raised the cocoa industry and made it extremely important and even more profitable.

However, this is where the heart of the matter is, over a long period of time, over fifty (50) years, we are yet to decide what the net negative effects or the net effect of COCOBOD has been, whether negative or positive.  So considering how COCOBOD used to be very important, coming in to clearly raise cocoa purposely to help farmers and all those things, and in the first few decades ten twenty years, we think COCOBOD was very important in bringing cocoa to the top.

But going forward from thirty years down the line to now, CAL thinks it is about time for COCOBOD to also do a very thorough work to check whether especially in the last few decades, the influence of COCOBOD has been a net positive or net negative in the industry. We think COCOBOD is a force for good and you must continue to be a force for good. But we know it won't happen automatically. Like we asserted, in the past when you heard a cocoa farmer, you heard a rich man. The best buildings in the town were built by the farmers and cocoa farmers were rich.

Today, when you hear cocoa farmer, you hear poor man. Go out there right now and ask to be shown a cocoa farmer, the cocoa farmers are not rich today. People are farming cocoa and they are not making money. It does not look like people are building wealth of cocoa anymore.

We think that, COCOBOD should start thinking through its net effect on the industry today, because we believe we can do better with cocoa especially with  the fortunes of those people who are involved in the industry. And on the national level, it is time for us as a country to start thinking about the return on our national investment in cocoa. We have a national investment in cocoa, we have a national body involved in cocoa. Indeed COCOBOD is very crucial to this economy, part of that is the cocoa financing round. When that billion or so Dallas comes in for cocoa purchases, it changes the whole economy, it lowers the temperature.

After all the cocoa financing round, the economy is what it is now, which shouldn't be so. So the question is going forward from here, what can COCOBOD do to make sure that it justifies its existence and then also makes its influence a net positive on the cocoa industry, and not just that, but also becomes the driving force for the transformation of the cocoa industry in Ghana.

To have this transformation, two things are involved, whether we like it or not. The two things are the infusion of educated young people. Our cocoa industry is dominated by old illiterate people. It's not their fault, but our fault as a country. We have not developed the policies that will attract the educated young people into the industry. Nothing can change the industry, whether free spraying, free fertilizer, free seeds, or whatever, as long as it is dominated by old illiterate people, it will not be transformed. If we can introduce young educated people into the industry, that will start the transformation.

The second thing that will happen will happen on the back of the first one. These young educated people will bring in more scientific methods and when they bring more scientific methods, it will transform the cocoa industry. It will look more like what is going on in Ivory Coast, where they really have plantations.

We still have artisanal cocoa production in Ghana, still smallholder. That improves our quality, yes but we're still doing the work were doing two hundred years ago. Therefore, these two things are very crucial for the transformation of the cocoa industry, and they are absolutely necessary. 

 

However, it will have another effect, when these young people come in with their scientific methods, they will insist on using modern scientific methods to do something else. They will insist on not using COCOBOD. Because, COCOBOD is more like a monopoly now when it comes to cocoa buying and managing of cocoa in the value chain.

They will insist on bagging, crashing, processing and packaging their own cocoa and insist on their own export. This will happen by hook or crook. The evidence of this market is clearly out there, that, there is the developing market for the local processing of cocoa. Paradigms are shifting, things are changing, and COCOBOD is in the centre of all this. So what is COCOBOD doing to justify its relevance as the main regulator in the cocoa value chain?

Let 's figure out how we can make this industry better, because the economy needs it but more importantly, because very many people are dependent on this industry and improving it is going to improve the lives of many Ghanaians. As we celebrate this special day, we take the opportunity to commend our gallant farmers for their hard work and contribution to economic development of this country. We say 'AYEKOOOOO.'

 

 

Long live our gallant farmers! 

 

Long live Ghana's agriculture sector! 

 

Long live the Centre for Agro Liberty (CAL)

Source: ILAPI