With a broad smile while working on a well pruned cocoa farm, Esi Attaa, 40, who hails from Twifo Praso in the Central Region, tells how her farm has been transformed over the past two years through the help of the Boame Scheme.
Auntie Esi says her yield has increased from a 100-kilogram bag of cocoa per acre to five. Previously, her farm was not in the best of shape and nearly lost her investment, but the managerial support from the Boame Scheme has made it very productive.
Visibly, the cocoa trees have good leaves, look healthy and have produced green cocoa pods, with all parasitic trees being cut.
Auntie Esi testifies that most women cocoa farmers often engage in other livelihood enterprises in addition to cocoa production, which often resulted in division of labour, time and resources among the different economic activities.
“In an event that the woman cocoa farmer has limited time and resources to invest in any other enterprise, the cocoa farm tends to be the least considered for investment,” she said.
The challenge Aunte Esi was facing was just one of the many issues in the sector. Although the country had gained the status as the second largest producer of cocoa, after La Cote D’Ivoire, it faces a management challenge including high rate of aged farmers, high cost of labour and inadequate supply of inputs.
Dr Yaw Osei-Owusu, the Executive Director of Conservation Alliance International (CA), says these challenges translate into inadequate labour and financial investments needed for the optimisation of the potential of cocoa farmlands.
Cocoa production is a major economic activity undertaken by more than 800,000 farmers. Improving farm management can help boost farm productivity and revenue of about two billion dollars in foreign exchange annually, and is a major contributor to Government Revenue and Gross Domestic Production (GDP).
BOAME Cocoa Scheme
Boame, to wit “help me,” is an Akan word. As the name signifies, the scheme seeks to help farmers to improve farm productivity, the ecological health of cocoa farms and household incomes.
Since its inception in 2015, over 50 farming communities in the Central and Western regions have benefitted from the pilot project. Having proven effective and efficient at the pilot stage, the new phase of Boame is targeting more than 60,000 cocoa farmers across the cocoa production landscape in Ghana. This initiative is being jointly implemented by Conservation Alliance International CERATH Investments, Biodiversity Heritage Associates, and Vital Info.
Dr Osei-Owusu, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, explained that the Scheme provides farmers with two options: the full and partial management. The full management option is where farmers hand over their farm to the management scheme for assessment and mapping out, where the required agroforestry practices are undertaken and farmers pay back the cost of rehabilitation (inputs and labour at an agreed period).
The partial management option is where farmers sign onto the Scheme to have their farms assessed to establish the management gaps, after which management prescriptions are determined and given to the farmer to implement.
Dr Osei-Owusu said the Scheme would complement government’s effort at improving cocoa production through the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP).
Boame, he noted, targets more than 100,000 cocoa-growing households across Ghana and will soon be active in 15 districts in the Eastern, Western and Central regions. It is the desire of implementers to extend it to all the cocoa growing regions by 2020.
The Scheme Coordinator, Mr Ato Kwamena Addo, said it had recruited and trained some local young men and women whom it called the Boame Scout, to implement these management practices such as pruning, weeding and spraying under the direct supervision of Conservation Alliance, thus creating jobs for the youth, a key policy of government.
At the pilot stage 50 young men and women gained employment and the number will increase by 45 per cent as the Scheme is up scaled.
Mr Anthony Carr, a Boame Scout from Twifo Praso in the Central Region, said: “The services I provide serve as a source of income to provide for my family and support my children.”
Call for Support
Experts say aside cocoa being one of the few crops that has a ready market, it is a good prospector for Ghana’s attainment of the new Sustainable Development Goal (SGD 15), which seeks to, among other things, help countries sustainably manage forests. In the case of Boame, the average tree cover of most of the poor managed farms in the piloted areas was two trees per acre and this has been improved to six and eight trees per acre through the Scheme.
Professor Alfred Oteng Yeboah, the Chair of the National Biodiversity Committee, states that the adoption of practices and activities that favour pollinators such as promotion of biological pest control and very limited use of pesticides have increased the abundance, diversity and health of these pollinators.
“Pollinators play an essential role in helping to feed a rising local population in a sustainable way and help maintain biodiversity and a vibrant ecosystem, which is in line with the SGDs,” he said.
Just as the name; Boame, implies, organisations and individuals interested in improving the wellbeing of cocoa farmers and the environment must come on board to support the Scheme.