The Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) says its broad-based initiative of involving youth in cocoa farming is part of a succession plan to motivate the youth to embrace cocoa farming as a business and take over from aging farmers.
The Boards initiative is as well to encourage more rural folks, unemployed graduates and corporate youth into the cocoa business to become the next generation of cocoa farmers in the country.
Over 30,000 youth are currently engaged in the cultivation of the crop in all the cocoa growing regions and is targetted at replacing the aging farming syndrome that is catching up with the industry.
Noah Kwesi Amenyah, Public Affairs Manager, Cocobod told B&FT that its new initiate, New Cocoa Sector Transformation Agenda is aimed at enticing a lot more Ghanaian youth to see the economic benefits of cocoa farming and be motivated to cultivate the crop.
He said the Board is providing support for all young cocoa farmers by giving them hybrid pods, improved seedlings, free fertiliser and inputs, a farmer business school programme, as well as extension support to boost cocoa production.
With rapid road rehabilitation works on cocoa roads and efforts to pursue a child education support programme in cocoa growing areas, more young people will be attracted to stay in communities and villages to cultivate cocoa farming.
The Board expects to mobilise and streamline the activities of more youth as part of national efforts aimed at encouraging youth to cultivate cocoa farms for sustainable cocoa production.
Mr. Amenyah explained that the entire deployment process starts at the district level with strong support from the districts community extension agents as well as chiefs.
We are establishing strong ties with chiefs to make land available for supporting the youth to take up the initiative and also brand the youth-in-cocoa with community festivals; adopt musical concert to draw the migrant youth to take up the opportunity.
Cocoa, which constitutes about 20 percent of the countrys merchandise export, contributes three percent of Gross Domestic Product, provides employment for almost a million farmers, and is a source of livelihood for millions of citizens in six out of the countrys 10 regions.
The cocoa industry has identified one of its challenges as lack of motivation for the youth to embrace cocoa farming and take over from aging farmers.
He encouraged the formation of farmer groups and associations for young cocoa farms, which is necessary to give them recognition in order to access credit facilities so as to expand their operations.
After barely two years of rigorous sensitisation on the initiative, more young cocoa farmers are putting themselves together into recognisable groups to share useful ideas on cocoa production as well as to promote their welfare.
He said the Cocobod has enhanced the award scheme for the Young Cocoa Farmer category to make cocoa farming very attractive to youth. The awardees of the award package over the years have also enjoyed sponsored travel opportunities to other cocoa-growing countries to learn more about the industry.
He said there has been an active programme aimed at providing direct support including cocoa-spraying and extension services to farmers to educate them on good agronomic practices and prevent crop losses, and promote production of good cocoa.
The Board, he said, has also initiated the cocoa rehabilitation and replanting programme to assist farmers rehabilitate and re-plant old, diseased and abandoned cocoa farms.
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