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Ghana’s Cocoa Growers Lose Land, Livelihoods


FILE - Farmers break cocoa pods in Ghana's eastern cocoa town of Akim Akooko, Sept. 6, 2012.
Ghana’s Cocoa Growers Lose Land, Livelihoods
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The government in Ghana has announced plans to increase the incomes of cocoa farmers. But, cocoa farms are being destroyed, with or without the permission of the farmers.

Many cocoa farmers cannot do anything about the situation because they rent the land. The land owners are ending their leases early to develop other crops.

This month, a bulldozer cleared the land Ama Serwah rented in Asikesu for growing cocoa and other crops. Serwah is the bread-winner of her family. Now, she is trying to think of how to support her children and grandchildren.

Asikesu is an area in Ghana famous for growing cocoa. The country supplies about 20 percent of the world’s total cocoa crop.

Many hectares of cocoa trees like Serwah’s have been destroyed in Asikesu. Farmers like Serwah have toiled for years growing their crops, on land they do not own or have control over. They believe the land was cleared to raise cattle.

Serwah said the money she received for the loss of her crops was not enough. And, with land and her crops gone, she said she does not know how she can feed her family.

David Servor is another former cocoa farmer. He returned to look at the recently destroyed land which he once farmed. Servor used the profits from his cocoa farming to help pay for his children's school fees.

Now, with no land to farm cocoa, Servor cannot pay his rent. He has been told to leave his home.

"About two weeks now I have not had sleep," he said. "Thinking, thinking, thinking, because all what I have done in my lifetime has gone forever. And it's like I'm alive but I’m dead.”

In Ghana, a government body makes rules for the cocoa industry. This government body sets the price that growers earn from their beans.

Earlier this year, Ghana added a "living income differential" fee of $400 on every ton of cocoa beans sold on the market. The country did this with the aim of improving the livelihoods of farmers.

Men pour out cocoa beans to dry in Niable, at the border between Ivory Coast and Ghana, June 19, 2014. Picture taken June 19, 2014. To match Insight GHANA-IVORYCOAST/COCOA REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon (IVORY COAST - Tags: BUSINESS AGRICULTURE FOOD)
Men pour out cocoa beans to dry in Niable, at the border between Ivory Coast and Ghana, June 19, 2014. Picture taken June 19, 2014. To match Insight GHANA-IVORYCOAST/COCOA REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon (IVORY COAST - Tags: BUSINESS AGRICULTURE FOOD)


The Concerned Farmers Association does not believe that will help. The president of the Association is Nana Oboadie Opambour Boateng Bonsu. He said Ghana's cocoa farmers need to protect the crop on which they depend.

Bonsu said, "This is a serious challenge and it's something that we have been fighting for for so long, but it seems the government has put wax in its ears because government is not all that serious about this cocoa issue."

The Ghana Cocao Board sets rules for the cocoa industry in the country. It says the major issue is farmers losing their lands. The agency said farmers rent land from chiefs who later take it back when they see other opportunities.

While the cocoa agency works with chiefs to fight against the practice, it does not have the right to tell landowners what to do with their property. However, officials say the group offers legal representation to farmers to deal with payment for lost property.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ibrahim Onafeko adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional materials from the World Resources Institute. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

rent –v. to regularly pay for the use of property

lease –n. an official agreement to pay the owner a set amount for the use of property

bulldozer –n. a kind of earth moving equipment

toil –v. to work

challenge –n. a difficult task

opportunity –n. a chance to do or gain something

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