Building protective cocoa communities
One of ICI’s priorities in 2013 is the implementation of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) to support cocoa farmers to increase their yield and thus their income. The additional income can be used to improve the farmers’ children’s access to school and also to hire adult labour, both of which reduce the likelihood of children carrying out hazardous work on the cocoa farm.
In January 2013, 70 cocoa farmers (named “FFS community facilitators”) were selected from 70 communities to take part in the Farmer Field School organised by ICI in Kumasi. The course has been developed as a “trainer of trainers” (“ToT”): farmers learn about farming techniques that allow them to increase their yield, they go back to their farm to apply what they learn in the FFS, and pass on the knowledge to other farmers, thus multiplying the benefits of the training. In addition to the 70 cocoa farmers, 9 district cocoa extension agents were also trained. These agents are responsible for supervising the community facilitators in establishing and delivering the FFS methodology in their respective communities.
Following the first module of the ToT, which ended in February 2013, the community facilitators were able to establish 68 FFS in 68 communities in Ghana. ICI provided funds for the purchasing of relevant items for the delivery of Farmer Field Schools in all 68 communities. In total, 1’578 cocoa farmers (out of which 381 are women) participated in the FFS organised by the community facilitators.
The second module of the ToT took place in July 2013. Topics discussed included post-harvest processes (harvesting, gathering, pod breaking, fermentation, drying, bagging, storage, selling), Farmer Business School, causes and consequences of child labour, child protection, facilitation skills, FFS management, FFS monitoring and FFS closure activities.
Community facilitators made presentations of the work done on the ground from March to June 2013. In addition to the development of the FFS, three community facilitators reported that they were able to link their Farmer Field School withOpportunity International, an international institution which provides financial products and strategies to people in developing countries to overcome poverty. Furthermore, four community facilitators were able to create farmers’ associations. Farmers have also recognised the need to use adult labour through a shared labour system to increase production. As a result, more than 10 FFS have reintroduced the Nnoboa traditional system, a system where farmers join their forces as a group to provide labour support to one of their members. In some cases, FFS farmers have proposed their services to farmers who did not participate in the FFS, in order to support their pruning activities for a fee ranging between GH¢70 (around $ 33) and GH¢150 (around $ 72) per acre of cocoa farm.
Following the ToT, farmers’ knowledge of good agronomic practices has increased and there are clear improvements in their farms. Mr Benjamine Krampah, a farmer and FFS facilitator of the community of Nkrankese, is one of the 79 farmers participating in the ToT and practicing the FFS methodology in his one acre farm. Talking about what he learned in the ToT, he said “I had never harvested even one bag of cocoa on my farm in a cropping year since I started the farm eight years ago. Whenever my cocoa trees developed pods, they were infested and would have very little to harvest. After applying the FFS methodology, I have seen drastic improvements on my farm. The cocoa trees look healthier now, and they have developed a lot of cocoa pods. Now, I believe that I can increase my cocoa yield and I will use the extra income to provide education to my eight children.”
The positive changes on Mr. Krampah’s farm have encouraged other farmers to participate in the Cocoa Farmer Field School. The number of participants in the FFS class organised by Mr. Krampah has suddenly increased from 15 to 34 farmers.