Hohoe: COCOBOD Extension Officers trained on CBS, FBS, Child Labour and emerging issues in cocoa sector

The lifeline staff of COCOBOD, the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) in the Hohoe District of the Volta Region on 21 July 2022 received comprehensive training on Farmer Business School(FBS), Cooperative Business School( CBS), Child Labour in Cocoa and other emerging developments in the cocoa industry.

The training forms part of capacity building, to equip Extension Officers with modern practices that will enable them effectively perform in their roles and make Ghana sustain its position as the leading and premium quality cocoa producer in the world.

The training, which was spearheaded by National Officers of CHED, Dr. Mrs. Mercy Asamoah ( Deputy Executive Director (Operations), Mr. Kwame Effah (CHED-Headoofice); Regional Executives Mr. Noel Ayibor (Regional Extension Officer, Volta), Mr. Linus Fiakye (Deputy Regional Manager, Volta); District Officers, Mr. Emmanuel Ofori (District Cocoa Officer, Hohoe) and Mr. Derick A. Donkor (District Extension Coordinator, Hohoe) aims at averting any unforeseen decline in productivity of cocoa and ensure the longevity of the industry, eschew malpractices among staff and above all espouse excellence and ethical behaviour in service delivery.

Dr. Mrs. Asamoah began by touching on CHED’s Strategic Plan (2021-2025), a vision to achieve excellence in extension services delivery and enhancing the rate of adoption of Good Agronomic Practices (GAPs) by cocoa farmers for a productivity gain of 1500kg dry cocoa beans per hectare by 2025. To achieve this, she reiterated CHED has a mission to support cocoa farmers to adopt GAPs through effective and efficient extension services, rehabilitation of diseased and overaged cocoa farms and implement other Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEPs) for increased yields.

Dr. Asamoah added that “CHED cannot be attained if extension officers do not embrace the core values of CHED and hard work with integrity, passion with commitment to duty, accountability, versatility, results-driven, trustworthiness, all summed up as excellence and ethical Behaviour.”

Using the participatory teaching method, the extension officers were put into groups for short debate on:

i) Cocoa Farming is NOT a good business. FOR or AGAINST the motion.

ii) It is important to work as individual farmer than to belong to a farmer cooperative. FOR or AGAINST the motion.

After a brief debate, it was resolved that:

i) Because there is conscious investments (resources) put in by COCOBOD, farmers and private donors, coupled with fixed prices for cocoa beans and continuous extension support, though there are challenges within the cocoa farming business such as delayed payments by LBCs and weather fluctuations, the advantages far outweigh the undesirable.

ii) Belonging to Farmer Based Organisations (FBOs) or Agricultural Producer Organisations (APOs) such as Cocoa Farmer Cooperatives gives huge benefits that far outweigh going as a solo farmer. Additionally, vulnerable or fragile farmers (i.e aged farmers) stand to benefit from CBS services provided by the Farmer Cooperatives. It is indeed expedient for a cocoa farmer to join a cooperative.

On FBS, Dr. Asamoah through random selections chose 12 Extension Officers to do brief presentations on all the 12 Modules:

i) Is Farming a business

ii) Know your units to know your assets

iii) Manage for more and better food part I

iv) Money Out/ Money In: Know whether you do good business

v) Decision for more income

vi) Opportunities to diversify your farm enterprise

vii) Manage your money throughout the year

viii) How to get good financial services

ix) Make more money with quality cocoa

x) Benefits from membership in farmer organisation

xi) Manage for more and better food part II and

xii) Becoming an entrepreneur in practice.

After each presentation by Extension Officers, a short discussion of areas that need improvement was spelt out and correctional information was added by Dr. Asamoah and the team.

Mr. Kwame Effah led the training on CBS. Using the participatory method, basic requirements of a Cocoa Farmer Cooperatives were listed, such as;

i) Registered with Department of Cooperatives

ii) Have Democratically Elected Members

iii) Have Register, containing all members and their details

iv) Renews their certificates annually

v) Have an Office Space

vi) Have Bank Accounts

vii) Have Constitution (Bye Laws)

viii) Holds Annual General Meetings

ix) Belong to a Cooperative Credit Union etc.

Mr. Effah added, “Cooperatives should be able to use their CBS knowledge, draw business plans and be able to offer business services centred on the cocoa value chain, such as Marketing and Labour Services like Cooperative Pruning, Cooperative Spraying, Cooperative Weeding, Cooperative Lining and Pegging, Cooperative group purchase of inputs, to be able to generate income for the cooperative and make them self sustaining.

“Discuss these with your cooperatives and get them to do these,” Mr. Effah appealed to the Extension Officers.

On Child Labour, Dr. Mrs. Asamoah used the Q&A methodology, where all Extension Officers were allowed to stand, and each was made to answer a question ranging from child labour in cocoa farming, Harken-Engel protocols, worst forms of child labour, permissible work for children under supervision and child trafficking and smuggling.

The Regional Extension Officer for Volta Region, Mr. Noel Ayibor urged Extension Officers to take their work seriously. “CHED wants to achieve excellence, and that can only come if Extension Officers work seriously, make sure these cooperatives in their operational areas meet the requirements spelt out boldly, and where there are deficiencies, work to ameliorate, so as to attain the target of 1500kg of dry cocoa beans per hectare by 2025,” he stressed while wishing Extension Officers well in their endeavours.

Mr. Linus Fiakye thanked the Deputy Executive Director (Ops), Dr. Mrs. Asamoah and her team for the great job done and assured her Extension Officers in the Hohoe District will do their utmost best to get the job done.

Source: Modern Ghana