Nana Bekoe Ahwireng, Chief of Mpaem in the New Juaben North Municipality, has called for a critical look at the living conditions of ageing cocoa farmers and make the industry attractive to young people.
"The cocoa industry is full of elderly people and the youth are hesitating to go into it because the living conditions of their parents in the communities are nothing to show that cocoa farming is rewarding," he said.
He said the situation was pushing away the youth from cocoa farming and that if nothing was done it would derail the cocoa industry, which is the backbone of Ghana's economy.
Nana Ahwireng, who is also a cocoa farmer and former Board Member of the International Cocoa Organisation, was speaking with the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Mpaem in the Eastern Region.
He noted that cocoa-growing communities all over the country were deprived and lacked social amenities such as good roads and electricity to improve their living conditions and ensure better education outcome for their children.
But for the intervention of cocoa industry giants like International Cocoa Initiative, Mondelez and others under the Cocoa Communities Development initiative, their situation would have been worse off, he said.
According to him, most children of cocoa farmers had never benefited from the cocoa scholarship scheme, stressing, “[Rather] people in the cities who are not farmers and can afford their children's education rather take advantage of the scholarship."
Nana Ahwireng who did not mince words said he had been a cocoa farmer for decades yet none of his children had ever benefited from the cocoa scholarship despite several attempts to access the scheme for his children.
He said it was appalling for the staff of COCOBOD and cocoa purchasing companies "living well with better working conditions while the cocoa farmers whose sweat produce cocoa do not even have access to potable drinking water."
He urged the government to make a conscious effort to improve the welfare of cocoa farmers and cocoa-growing communities or risk losing cocoa plantations to illegal mining.
Though he said cocoa farming had long term benefits and contributions to environmental protection, galamsey looked attractive to the youth.
He noted cocoa plantations handed to children of cocoa farmers were being destroyed by galamsey activities.
He called for an institution of pension scheme for cocoa farmers and urged the government to pursue the agenda aggressively as a measure to sustain Ghana’s cocoa industry.