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Ghana cocoa sustainability conference highlights urgent need for farmer support

A key sustainability conference in Ghana has agreed that enabling farmers to earn fair incomes for the production of cocoa is vital for securing the sector’s future, writes Neill Barston.

According to COCOBOD, the West African nation’s industry body, the event assembled major government and business stakeholders to push forward with plans to assist agricultural communities against a backdrop of downward pressure on crop prices and pandemic challenges.

The agreement comes in the wake of dialogue with the EU, which is set to introduce stricter legislation surrounding commodities imports to the block – though lobbying from some sections of industry has led to this being pushed back from being introduced this summer, to later on this autumn.

As COCOBOD noted, the high level conference on 30 June included the country’s Minister of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Owusu Afriyie Akoto; the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Samuel Abu Jinapor and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Hon. Ignatius Baffour-Awuah.

Significantly, the COCOBOD’s chief executive Hon Joseph Boahen Aidoo asserted at the meeting that the fair  international pricing of cocoa was central to sustainable cocoa farming – but recent concerning drops in the value of crops have resulted in the recently introduced Living Income Differential (LID) payments to farmers (of $400 a tonne) effectively being lost.

The CEO also raised the key issues of child labour and deforestation, stating they must be tackled in all forms and that Ghana is committed to those causes. He believed that a well-remunerated farmer will be in a better position to engage the right kind of labour and adhere to the standards of sustainability.

Despite raising concerns, he reportedly said these two issues had been overblown in some western media, as well as by civil society organisations, amid confusion over these core issues.

However, his remarks come following long-term studies from NORC at the University of Chicago studies last October that revealed a total of 1.5 million children are still exposed to child labour across Ghana and neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Further addressing the conference, Aidoo also noted regret that some buyers of cocoa had adopted various means to undermine the LID payments, which he reportedly warned was undermining efforts to improve farmers’ lives and threatened cocoa sustainability.

According to COCOBOD, a further member of the panel, H.E. Ron Strikker, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ghana, said the dialogue has been very fruitful in allowing all parties to state their positions on the economic, social, and environmental pillars which impact sustainability in the cocoa sector.

In addition, Alex Arnaud Assanvo, executive secretary of the recently created Ivory Coast-Ghana Cocoa Initiative stated that if the right to earn a decent living income by cocoa farmers is not respected and met, then it is unrealistic to expect that the farmers will be able to observe the human rights and environmental standards required to achieve sustainable cocoa production.

Notably, Leticia Yankey, founder of Cocoa Mmaa, representing cocoa farmers on the event panel, said that low incomes were a central issue in terms of unsustainable practices in the sector, but stated that Ghana is capable of producing cocoa sustainably with the right support.

Mrs. Leticia Yankey, who is the founder of Cocoa Mmaa and represented cocoa farmers on the panel said low incomes is what drives unsustainable practices. Nonetheless, cocoa farmers in Ghana are capable of producing cocoa sustainably if given the right incentives.

In closing the event, Michel Arrion, the Executive Director of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), reportedly said that the economic pillars for sustainable cocoa production in the region should be placed at the highest point of an agenda between all ongoing discussions with the EU.

 

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