Many farmers in Ghana’s Central Region have refused to cut down their cocoa trees infected by swollen shoot disease. That despite the strong urging by political and scientific authorities and sensitization workshops. Authorities consider the removal of infected trees the best method to keep the disease from spreading. So why won’t farmers play along?
It turns out that the farmers in question are not simply uninformed or irrational. They are concerned about their livelihood, in particular, their ability to continue farming cocoa after they cut down the infected trees. You see, in Ghana, as in much of West Africa, farmers often grow cocoa under some form of tenancy or share cropping system that allows them to grow cocoa on land that is not theirs. Traditionally, the abusa system gave the farmer who shepherded a crop to harvest one third of the beans harvested. It was and continues to be an easy way for landless farmers to enter the cocoa business.
Here’s the problem with cutting down trees according to Opanyin Yaw Ackom, a cocoa farmer at Breman Adandani: once a crop dies or trees are uprooted the land goes back to the owner. The farmer who might want to replant a new crop would have to negotiate an new tenancy agreement with the landowner. Farmers are understandably worried that the new agreement will not be as favorable to them as the one under which they are operating right now.
So the offer of free seedlings for a new farm, made by the Cocoa Production Unit of the COCOBOD may not be convincing. This story again highlights that access to land and security of tenancy are important factors to keep in mind. Outsiders