Chief of Wassa Dikoto, Nana Ntiako Agyiri II, has hinted of his intention to cut down cocoa trees in over 250,000 acres of cocoa farm in the Western Region of Ghana to pave way for a private developer.
According to community leaders, about 4000 cocoa farmers from the 13 cocoa growing communities in the Dikoto-Nsuaem Traditional Area of the municipality are set to lose their farms in the coming weeks, as their landlord pushes through his plan to destroy cocoa farms to make way for an Indian company to use the land to cultivate an oil palm plantation.
In the intervening time, the communities earmarked for destruction include: Dikoto Junction, Wassa Kumasi, Abaase, Sebeho, Supanso, Appiakrom, Dikoto Krofrom, Ojugu and Larbikrom, among others. The community leaders indicated that even though the over four thousand cocoa farmers in the Dikoto-Nsuaem Traditional Area of the municipality vehemently opposed the idea, their traditional ruler, Nana Ntiako Agyiri II, is actively pushing through the plan to establish oil palm plantation and milling plant, as part of his development agenda for the area.
Farmers Are Against the Chief’s Decision
Mr. Yaw Bioh, who has over 30 acres of cocoa farm, expressed his displeasure stating that he does not support any project to cut down cocoa trees.
“Ghana is famous for its cocoa. At peak, cocoa accounts for about 66% of the country’s foreign exchange. So, why should personal interest supersede national interest? If authorities don’t prevent the Chief and his investors from implementing this initiative, it may lead to conflict and increase poverty”.Mr. Yaw Bioh
Another cocoa farmer, Madam Yaa Pokuaa, also bemoaned the idea of the Chief choosing Indian investors over the livelihood of the community. She thus, was surprised at the chief’s decision and fears that if nothing is done, it would rob her family of the only livelihood they have known for 40 years.
“Nana Ntiako Agyiri’s oil palm plantation project will adversely affect food security in the communities. The whole community have no plans of vacating their ancestral land for the Indian investor”.Madam Yaa Pokuaa
The chief of Dikoto Junction, one of the affected communities, Nana Ayeh Gyampoh III, contended that several appeals to the traditional ruler to reconsider his decision fell on deaf ears, forcing them to petition the paramount chief of the Wassa Amenfi, but noted that their petition yielded no positive outcome.
EcoCare Ghana Joins Forces with the Farmers
Mr. Obed Owusu-Addai, the Managing Campaigner of EcoCare, a civil society organisation that specializes in environmental and human rights advocacy, stated that that his organisation took interest in the matter when some cocoa farmers and their community leaders approached him. He iterated the position of the farmers that the situation may escalate into a full blown conflict.
“Our inability to prevent the chief and his investors from implementing this initiative may lead to conflict, increase poverty, rural urban migration, loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation and affect the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 8, 13 and 15. It’s a human rights issue and we want to advocate ensuring that their basic human right is not trampled upon. We know that the chief is converting the land into a mono-cultural oil palm plantation which does not support biodiversity.
“The Economic Plant Protection Act of 1979 says that cocoa is an economic plant and you cannot just cut it without recourse to COCOBOD and the laws of the state. He might have his right to the land as the overlord, but his right is also within the greater context of Ghana as a whole. EcoCare Ghana is not against the developmental agenda of the chief but he should not trample upon the rights of the indigenes and the migrants on the land. We also hope that it should not be something that will bring environmental challenges to the people staying in these cocoa growing communities”.Mr. Obed Owusu-Addai
Assemblyman for the Dikoto junction Electoral Area, John Bawuah, moreover, confirmed the narrative of the aggrieved farmers, emphasising that almost all residents are against the chief’s plan.
Leaders from the 13 affected communities with support from EcoCare Ghana have petitioned the Wassa Amenfi East Assembly, District Administration of Ghana Cocoa Board and the Forestry Commission on the matter.