WOMEN IN COCOA FESTIVAL HELD AT SUNYANI IN BONO REGION
The first-ever festival for women in cocoa farming and the cocoa industry from the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo regions has been held in Sunyani.
Under the umbrella of the Brong Ahafo Women Cooperative Farmers and Marketing Central Union Limited (BAWCOF) formed in 2020, women in the cocoa farming and marketing sectors have been organized into a cooperative union.
So far, over 7,629 women from 96 cooperatives from the nine cocoa districts in the three regions have been enrolled into the union.
The BAWCOF 2023 brought together hundreds of women in the cocoa industry from the three regions, during which they showcased some products produced by the various cooperatives.
Through the initiative of the union, members of the union have been taught how to produce products such as soap, cream, gari, ginger chips among others.
The union has also established a large maize farm at Mim in the Ahafo Region, while members are also into the purchase of cocoa beans waste.
During the festival, members from the nine cocoa districts in the three regions competed in the cooking of various traditional dishes.
Staff of the Cocoa Clinic and the Sunyani SDA Hospital among other health institutions also provided free medical screening for the participants.
Speaking during the festival, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, said the new cocoa price announced at the opening of the 2023/2024 cocoa season in September 2023 was very fair.
“This year’s cocoa price is very fair.
We can only say last year’s pricing was not good but it was as a result of the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar, which affected the pricing,” he explained.
Mr. Aidoo explained that stakeholders had scrutinized the price before the announcement, adding that the President or he (Aidoo) or the sector minister did not determine the price of the commodity but it was rather the Producer Price Review Committee which determined the price of the commodity.
He said representatives of cocoa farmers, licensed buying companies and transporters were all involved in the pricing decision even before the Bank of Ghana and COCOBOD came in to assess the price for the benefit of the farmers.
“I am explaining this because there is a section of the public who are saying the new cocoa price was not the true reflection of the world market,” Mr. Aidoo said.
“I will not stand here and lie to you. Ghana’s cocoa price has been far better than Cote d’Ivoire since 2017,” he said and appealed to the farmers to appreciate the price, work hard and protect their farms against any form of destructions in order to benefit from the new price next year.
Mr. Aidoo said Ghana could not produce 500,000 metric tonnes of the commodity when the government took over and attributed the situation to diseases which attacked and destroyed cocoa farms.
However, he said COCOBOD had worked hard to control the diseases and advised farmers to report any unusual happenings in their farms to extension officers for action.
Mr. Aidoo urged them to allow their farms affected by the cocoa swollen shoot disease to be cut down to prevent further spread of the disease.
He also urged farmers to allow their farms to be pruned to enable them produce 20 bags per acre, adding that because some of the farmers were not observing best agriculture practices, some of them produced two bags per acre.
The President of the union, Martha Addai, said though women played very important role in the cocoa industry, they had been relegated to the background.
She explained that women in the cocoa industry in the area had come together to enable them to come out of their shells and take up their proper place in the cocoa industry.
Ms. Addai said to give women in the cocoa industry their financial freedom, they had taught members various economic skills so that they could have extra incomes during the off-cocoa seasons.
“Our aim is to ensure that all women in the cocoa industry in the area have their cocoa farms separate from that of their spouses,” she stated.
Ms. Addai said the union had proposed to establish a credit union to enable members to save part of their incomes, through which they could be offered loans to expand their farms.
For his part, the Executive Director of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED), Reverend Edwin Afari, said the department had introduced “4 Ps” practices, namely Pruning, Poultry manure application, Pollination and Pod protection to boost production.
He said the department had targeted pollinating 25 per cent of cocoa trees this year and pledged to deepen the department’s relations with farmers to enhance their farming activities.
For his part, the Administrator of the Sunyani COCOBOD, Michael P. K. Asumanu, said marketing cooperatives sought to empower women in cocoa farming with an alternative means of livelihood, both “on-farm” and “off-farm”, especially during the off-season.