Strategic collaboration will safeguard cocoa industry
Strategic collaboration implies that two or more organisations or individuals will come together to work in the interest of parties in order to be able to achieve their purpose whenever they are faced with certain challenges or obstacles which they need to overcome to promote their common interest.
It may be possible for an individual to adopt a method that will help to promote the interest of that individual, but this cannot always be successful depending on prevailing circumstances. Whenever circumstances are highly unfavourable, an individual may not be able to come out with an option that may be as effective as expected to overcome the challenge.
As a nation, Ghana has been faced with a number of challenges over the years. In 1983, for example, the country experienced a number of bush fires in various parts which resulted in food shortage in the country at the time. Prior to this, that is, in the late 1970’s, there had been similar food shortages in the country even though early on the Acheampong government had successfully introduced what was known as “Operation Feed Yourself”.
The “Operation Feed Yourself” was an agricultural programme that was introduced to encourage people to go into farming and produce enough to feed their families. Every available space in people’s backyard was to be utilised to produce food for the family. The programme proved to be very successful from 1973 to about 1975. By 1977, hunger had started to hit the country again, making the Acheampong government very unpopular.
These past challenges in the area of agriculture have guided Ghanaians to realise the need to maximise production in the agricultural sector so as to be able to feed themselves and possibly export food to other countries. Even though some governments that followed did not learn any lesson from this, the government of Akufo-Addo appears to have learnt something from what was experienced in the late 1970’s and also in the early 1980’s, hence the introduction of “Planting For Food and Jobs” and other programmes to alleviate the plight of the Ghanaian.
The challenges faced by the country in the early 70s and 80s could not be used to guide subsequent governments that were put in charge of the administration of this country. For this reason, the agricultural sector did not see much improvement.
Similarly, other challenges have emerged to confront the country today in spite of the successes chalked by this country. For example, for many years, cocoa had served as the backbone of the economy of Ghana, providing for many of its socio-economic needs to enhance the welfare of the people. Understood in this sense, the cocoa industry is vitally linked to the growth and welfare of the country. If the cocoa industry does well, the whole national economy also does well to the benefit of everyone.
Cocoa industry beneficiaries
The beneficiaries of the cocoa industry are numerous. Cocoa farmers in the country will be the first to emphasise that it is the industry that has sustained them and their families up to this time. Again, many cocoa processing companies have benefited from the industry by way of employment and incomes that have been earned over the years.
Also, as a nation, the country has earned substantial sums of income in form of foreign exchange to undertake numerous development projects. The building of hospitals and construction of roads as well as schools and tertiary institutions, among others, have all been made possible as a result of the earnings from cocoa over the years.
Cocoa Board Scholarship
It is equally important to note that it is earnings from cocoa that enabled Ghana to establish Cocoa Board Scholarship for many students. This assisted many of them to pursue their educational dreams and to prepare them adequately to become useful citizens.
All these are indications of the great strategic role that has been played by the cocoa industry to the economy of Ghana. It is for this reason that every effort will have to be made to protect the industry. If this is not done and the industry suffers, the effect will be disastrous for the country.
In recent times, we have heard of stories threatening the foundations of the industry in the sense that the operation of illegal small-scale mining is adversely affecting the soil on which the cocoa crop is grown. The industry has been threatened also with deforestation which is affecting the cocoa industry. Apart from deforestation, illegal small-scale mining has also adversely affected waterbodies in the country. It has even been predicted that a few years from now, if the situation is not checked, Ghana will be forced to import water.
Reversing the unfavourable trend
What this means is that strenuous effort will have to be made to reverse this unfavourable trend so that the cocoa industry will be safeguarded. This does not depend only on Ghana or Cote d’Ivoire who are the major cocoa producing countries but all other countries that also serve as consumers of the cocoa product as well as the processes.
The collapse of the cocoa industry is, therefore, a threat to many countries in the world. It is for this reason that a collective effort is needed to right every wrong that is plaguing the cocoa industry. It is in the light of this that Ghana and cocoa and chocolate companies have announced an agreement to accelerate collaboration to protect and restore forests in cocoa-growing areas.
With this agreement, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and the Forestry Commission of Ghana (GFC) are building a partnership to further align the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme (GCFRP) and the Cocoa & Forests Initiative to achieve no deforestation commitments. The Memorandum of Understanding, signed by GFC and WCF, commits the parties to working together in six regions where the government of Ghana has initiated action to protect and restore forests as a priority.
Economic importance of cocoa
The importance of cocoa to the economy of Ghana cannot be overemphasised. This is because the cash crop is a major source of foreign exchange for the country. Again, as has been pointed out already, it is money from cocoa that is used to build hospitals and roads for the benefit of the country.
About 800,000 small scale cocoa farmers make up 60 per cent of the country’s agricultural base. However, despite their importance to Ghana’s development, many cocoa farming families live in poverty, a situation that ought to be changed without delay.
In a nutshell, cocoa is the backbone of the economy of Ghana. If this is the case, then Ghana together with other partners will have to do all it can to revive the cocoa industry from collapse. This can be done, so let all the partners work assiduously for our common good and welfare.
Dr Kofi Amponsah-Bediako