The Afosu Area Cocoa Farmers Association in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region has appealed to the government to institute a pension scheme for cocoa farmers to free them from poverty in old age. This, according to a GNA report, could be done by deducting tokens from their sales proceeds to sustain the scheme.
This is not the first time the issue about the setting up of pension for cocoa farmers has been raised. Indeed, it was one of the major campaign promises of the then candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections. Nana Addo promised that if Ghanaians voted for him, he would make sure cocoa farmers also have a pension scheme, as was being done for those in the formal sector. The now President Akufo-Addo repeated this promise in the 2012 electioneering campaign, but, unfortunately, he did not win the two elections.
Nana Addo and his party (NPP) did not, however, repeat this promise during the campaign for the 2016 elections. The Chronicle is, therefore, unable to tell whether the issue has gone off the radar of the President, or he still has it in mind to establish the pension scheme for the cocoa farmers. Whatever be the situation, The Chronicle is reminding the President to revisit the issue, since it would be a cherished legacy that he and his administration would leave for cocoa farmers in the country, if he is able to establish the pension scheme for them.
The majority of our youth are not willing to go into farming, especially cocoa plantations, as a means of employment, because they see the abject poverty their fathers and grandfathers have found themselves in at their old age. Cocoa is the backbone of the economy, and the day the majority of our farmers decide to pull out from the sector, that will be the end of this country. Gold, manganese, diamond, bauxite and other mineral wealth of the country would one day deplete, but the cocoa sector, if well managed, would be there forever.
Regrettably, it is an area the youth are now shying away from, because they are not seeing much improvement in the lives of those who are currently cultivating the cash crop. In fact, it is pathetic to see some of the cocoa farmers in their old age. What to eat becomes a problem, because they are no more having the strength to do farm work. In that situation, they become a burden on their dependants, who have to struggle to feed and also foot their medical bills.
All these can be abated, if the farmer has a pension he or she could rely on after becoming incapable of going to the farm to work. The Afosu Area Cocoa Farmers Association has already come out with the modality for the implementation of the pension scheme. According to them, the government could deduct tokens from their sales proceeds to sustain the scheme. Their suggestions may not be the best among the options available, but if the government appoints the experts, they would come out with the good advice to ensure the smooth implementation of the scheme.
Definitely, COCOBOD would have the database of all cocoa farmers who sell their produce to the government. Registering the farmers with the view of deducting a token from the cocoa they would sell to the government each year should not be a cumbersome process. The Chronicle is a hundred per cent sure that if this scheme is properly implemented, it would not only lead to an increase in our cocoa production and rake in more foreign exchange for the country, but would also be the bait to entice the youth to go into cocoa cultivation.
The idea of coming out with a pension scheme for cocoa farmers should have been conceived and implemented a long time ago, and not after 60 solid years of our independence, but as the adage goes, better late than never. The World Bank and other Breton Woods Institutions have, over the decades, pumped billions of dollars into poverty eradication in Ghana, but the majority of our people are still below the poverty line. The reason is simple: because of the scanty resources at the disposal of the individual Ghanaian, the issue of investment becomes a remote option.
But it is our contention that if the pension scheme for the cocoa farmer is well implemented, it would help solve the problem the World Bank has taken years to deal with, because the cocoa farmer would be compelled to save a portion of his or her income into a special fund that would take care of him at his old age. Some of the problems confronting Ghana are surmountable, but because we are not thinking outside the box, it becomes a Gordian knot for us to untie.
We insist that a pension scheme for cocoa farmers is a laudable idea that must be implemented without fail. Our gallant farmers whose sweat has kept the wheels of our economy running, deserve better care in their old age, and the time to attend to their plight is now.
President Akufo-Addo, the Ghanaian cocoa farmers are looking up to you for the implementation of this good idea, and you must not fail them.