The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has expressed concern over the alarming rate at which cocoa farms are being destroyed by illegal mining, called galamsey, in the Western, Ashanti and Eastern regions.
A sample study carried out in some cocoa growing regions indicated that more than 19,000 hectares of cocoa farms had either been destroyed or affected by galamsey activities, leading to loss of income to farmers and investments by the board and the country at large.
Speaking about the issue COCOBOD CEO, Joseph Boahen Aidoo disclosed that in the Eastern and the Western regions, more than 81 and 74 per cent, respectively, of cocoa farmlands had been affected by illegal digging and unregulated use of mercury and other chemicals to extract gold and other precious minerals. In the Ashanti Region, he said, more than 68 per cent of cocoa farm areas were affected by the canker.
He said another 79.41Ha or two per cent of farms that were recently rehabilitated by the board had either been affected by the menace or at risk of being affected. He added that, illegal mining had led to the early dropping of pods, wilting, yellowing of leaves and generally low yield on cocoa farms.
Those outcomes, he said, threatened the sustainability of the cocoa sector, which generated an average of $2.5 billion in foreign exchange every year, as well as its associated multi-billion cedi cocoa processing sub-sector and more than 800,000 jobs.
Mr Mac Manu, stated that the board of COCOBOD will call a joint meeting with its counterparts at the Minerals Commission to deliberate on how to tackle the situation and save the cocoa sector from collapse. He stated that COCOBOD and the Minerals Commission have agreed to share information on the location of cocoa farms across the country to enable the commission to stop licensing such areas for mining.
He said they also agreed to strengthen their collaboration with the security services to ensure that illegal miners who destroyed cocoa farms were arrested and prosecuted, in line with relevant laws.
He appealed to farmers to resist the temptation to give their farmlands for mining, noting that unlike mineral wealth, which was finite, cocoa farming was a life-long activity that could be passed on to generations.