The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Hon. Joseph Boahen Aidoo has reiterated the call for cocoa farmers to avoid the use of weedicides and synthetic pesticides on cocoa farms and continue to practice safe farming techniques that ensure the cultivation of sustainable cocoa because dangerous agrochemicals permanently destroy the soil.
COCOBOD has banned the use of weedicides and other dangerous agrochemicals on cocoa and has been closely monitoring farmers to protect the gains made in conserving the environment, and the safety of the high-quality cocoa that the country produces.
He said that the COCOBOD was encouraging organic and sustainable cocoa cultivation to promote biodiversity, soil conservation, and fight climate change.
The COCOBOD chief made the call at Suhum when the Former President of the Swiss Confederation and current Minister for Environment, Energy, Transport and Communication, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, toured a model organic cocoa farm of Yayra Glover Limited (YGL) on Thursday at Suhum in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
Mr. Philipp Stalder, the Swiss Ambassador in Ghana, and a delegation from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) accompanied the Swiss Councillor on the tour.
The two-nation West African tour that started from Senegal offered the Swiss delegation the opportunity to inspect the premier organic cocoa project of YGL and other Swiss-sponsored climate protection projects in the country. “Your visit is remarkably historic because Ghana is currently engaged in discussions with the European Union (EU) on sustainable cocoa”, he told the Swiss Councillor, adding that other issues had come up for discussion including child labor, deforestation, and living income remuneration for cocoa farmers.
Commenting on the expansion of the Savannah grassland in the country, Hon. Aidoo explained that the unrestrained cultivation of crops such as grains and tubers has accounted for the rapid expansion of the Savannah grassland in the northern and southern parts of Ghana.
He said the continuous cultivation of tubers and grains did not allow the vegetation to grow and that was what had happened to the coastal Savannah areas close to Accra, which were hitherto forests but because of the cultivation of cassava, the area had become grassland.
“There is a typical forest in Damongo in the northern part of Ghana but the whole area is grassland. Why do we have a forest in Damongo but northern Ghana is almost Savannah? It is because farmers in that part of the country did not cultivate tree crops but grains and tubers.
“If you look at the map of Ghana, you see that areas that are green happened to be areas that cocoa had been cultivated and areas that are not green are areas that cocoa was not cultivated,” he said. The COCOBOD chiefs, therefore, advocated for global support to cultivate cocoa as the way to avert climate change.
“Right from the beginning cocoa cultivation goes with the planting of shade trees and other crops such as plantain, banana, and cocoyam which are beneficial to farmers.
“We have always made a strong case that the way cocoa is cultivated in Ghana is in line with the global common agenda to have more forests and trees. Cocoa itself is a forest plant that flourishes in the company of other desirable trees that later tower above cocoa trees to become permanent shade trees.
“It means that we can use cocoa agroforestry, as seen on the Yayra Glover Limited organic farm, to promote global greening and to get more carbon stocking as we intercrop cocoa with trees,” he said.
Hon. Aidoo called for the cultivation of cocoa to fight climate change, adding that with regards to the ongoing collaboration and the support that Ghana was receiving from Switzerland and the various institutions like the Cocoa Forest Initiative (CFI) and others, there was the need to strengthened and promote the cultivation of sustainable cocoa.
He said temperatures are high in Ghana and hardly drop below 20 degrees Celsius and cocoa critically needed water to thrive in such high temperatures. Hon. Aidoo, therefore, proposed for support to build irrigation systems on cocoa farms to increase yield adding, “That is where we need your support most.” He explained that when cocoa farmers irrigate their farms, the yield doubles, or triples, and they meet their productivity target, there would be no incentive for them to destroy forests to expand their farms.