FAO meets stakeholders on reclamation of mined degraded cocoa lands project

Accra The Food and Agricultural Organisation, (FAO), government and partners have held an inception meeting to introduce a project on the reclamation of mined degraded cocoa lands, using succession and diversified cocoa based Agroforestry to stakeholders.

The meeting was aimed at introducing the project to participants, build partnerships with all relevant stakeholders for the implementation, and allow stakeholders to make inputs into project activities.

It was also to present the project to stakeholders, introduce stakeholders to the project activities and interventions for their review and inputs, agree on roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, address any other relevant issues raised by stakeholders.

The project is dubbed Recovery of environment and livelihood of smallholder farmers affected by illegal mining and improvement of climate resilience and food safety through sustainable cocoa production with successional and diversified agro-forestry in Ghana

Dr Abebe Haile Gabrielle, Assistant Director General and Regional Programme Leader for Africa, FAO said the project was aimed at reclaiming mined degraded cocoa lands for cocoa production using successional and diversified cocoa � based agroforestry and restoring the livelihood of smallholder cocoa farmers affected by illegal mining.

He said the project was funded by the Government of Japan and implemented in collaboration with Ministry of Food and Agriculture, COCOBOD, University of Ghana, Legon and other partners.

He said cocoa played a significant role in Ghana’s economy; the cocoa sector employs and serves as the livelihood of more than 800,000 farm families cultivating about 1.6 million and 2 million ha of land (FAOSTAT, 2016).

The sector is the major contributor of Agriculture GDP and also contributes about USD 2 billion as foreign Exchange earnings annually.

Globally, Ghana is the second largest exporter of Cocoa and in addition to Cote d’Ivoire contributes about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply.

However, illegal small-scale mining, commonly known as galamsey in Ghana, is eroding the gains made over the years. Unregulated illegal small-scale mining operations have destroyed a great number of cocoa trees and farms, polluted and contaminated soils and water.

These activities have made affected famers worse off as their lands become practically difficult to be re-cultivated after illegal mining activities.

Dr Gabrielle said the negative effects of these activities to agriculture, environment and livelihoods cannot be overlooked, commending the Government of Ghana for the efforts made in the past years to deal with the menace.

He mentioned that cocoa productivity had been decreasing due to irrational farming practices, ageing cocoa trees and low soil fertility, adding that the impact of Global Climate Change on agriculture and especially cocoa production in Ghana cannot be downplayed.

He said ‘galamsay’ and climate change posed a threat to the growth of the cocoa sector, therefore it was necessary to adopt technologies that were environmentally friendly and ecologically sustainable to mitigate the effect of climate change on cocoa production such as SAFTA (Sistema Agroflorestal de Tome-Acu “or Tome-Acu Agroforestry System).

Dr Gabrielle said the technology, SAFTA, had proven to be successful in increasing cocoa productivity in the Amazon. In Ghana, SAFTA experimental pilot farms have been established in Okumanin near Kade by University of Ghana and in Nsawam by Ohayo Ghana Foundation.

The FAO in collaboration with University of Ghana (UG), Legon and Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) has trained some staff of UG and CRIG in the SAFTA technology with funding from the Japanese government, through its Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

He mentioned that the SAFTA system fits very well into the Planting for Export and Development (PED) programme launched by the Government and used economic trees such as the Ashanti Plum (Spondias mombin), which allowed sunlight penetration and provided extra income for the farmer.

He said under this project, some cocoa farms in the project areas that were destroyed by illegal mining would be reclaimed and cultivated using Successional Cocoa-based Agroforestry, to help increase cocoa productivity, build resilience and restore the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, enhance biodiversity, conservation and mitigate against the negative impact of climate change.

He assured that the FAO was committed to advancing agricultural interventions, which would continue to promote Food and Nutrition

Security, improve livelihood of smallholder farmers and ultimately agricultural development in Ghana.

Mr Tsutomu Himeno, Japanese Ambassador to Ghana said the project was tested in Brazil and it was well designed so that people could benefit from the fruits from the first year of production.

He said the project would solely be a Ghanaian increasing over the period and not limited to the areas referred to.

Mr Robert Patrick Ankobea, Chief Director of the, Minister of Food and Agriculture, in a speech read on his behalf said so much harm had already been done by galamsay activities in spite of spirited efforts by government to halt the menace.

He said it was obvious that strategic and collaborative efforts were required if the problem was to be sustainably addressed and must be concurrent to deter the perpetrators of the anti-social activity of galamsay to recover what was lost, while adopting measures to protect the environment and the survival of the people.

He said the intervention was welcomed and appreciated because of the importance of cocoa to Ghana’s economy, and the fact that it aligned with governments efforts at preventing illegal mining and reclaiming mine lands.

Source: Ghana News Agency