A little over a decade ago, in October 2005 to be precise, a bunch of creative minds at the then Offinso District Assembly in Ashanti (now split into Offinso South Municipal and Offinso North District Assemblies) set themselves an arduous task of finding a vehicle, indeed a catalyst that could influence the rapid development of the sprawling district.
The envisaged vehicle ought to have a multi-purpose function of stimulating job creation, economic growth and poverty reduction.
Buoyed by the fact that the district used to be one of the country’s major cocoa growing areas until the 1983 devastating widespread bushfires wiped out over 90per cent of its cocoa plantations, the group settled on the rehabilitation of cocoa farms as a perfect choice.
What then was to be the best way forward, in short the mode of execution? spearheaded by the then District Chief Executive, Mr. Augustine Collins Ntim, ( currently Member of Parliament for Offinso North) the group’s steely determination to succeed and creativity gave birth to the initiative of raising cocoa seedlings and supplying them free of charge to farmers as the best shot.
And Presto! That initiative actually turned out to be a magic wand which galvanised every Tom, Dick and Harry, particularly the youth in the district to go into cocoa farming.
Enveloped by a cloak of euphoria and enthusiasm, the programme, dubbed “DCE’s special initiative on cocoa, oil palm and citrus cultivation”, gathered so much momentum that failure was simply considered out of the question. It wasn’t envisaged at all.
Perhaps the National Cocoa Mass Spraying Exercise could also be described as God-sent and well-timed for it came in handy. Cushioned by the financial muscle provided by the District Assembly, the initiative recorded a huge success triggering a dramatic increase in cocoa production in 2009 and the subsequent years. Oil palm and citrus cultivation equally registered some appreciable output.
A total of 2.5 million cocoa, 2 million citrus and 6,000 oil palm seedlings were supplied to farmers in 20 communities in the District under the project.
Today, that initiative stands out as one of the monumental legacies of the District Assembly under Mr. Ntim’s watch.
Apparently taking a cue from that resounding success, Mr. Ntim is replicating the project. This time in cashew production in his constituency Offinso North District.
Tagged “The Member of Parliament’s Initiative For Sustainable Organic Cashew Development In The Offinso North District”, the programme has been designed as an intervention for economic growth and poverty alleviation but more importantly an environmentally-friendly approach to rural development.
Akin to a tailor-made intervention, it is considered as part of sustainable local intervention strategies and programmes with the potential of creating jobs for the teeming unemployed youth in addition to addressing rural poverty. The primary goal is to attract the youth to go into the commercial production and development of cashew.
The project, formally launched recently, seeks to support 20,000 farmers with the supply of free seeds to cultivate 200,000 hectares under a five-year programme.
According to Mr. Ntim about 10,000 farmers have already in the first year been trained and supported with a free supply of improved variety of cashew seeds for planting in the project’s operational zones at Akomadan, Afrancho, Nkenkaasu, Darso-Nkwaakwaa and Nsenoa.
The project is estimated to cost about GHC 8.3 billion with governmental, non-governmental organisations, Donor Agencies and the District Assemblies’ Common Fund (DACF) as the sources of funding. The initial funding is being provided by the MP from his share of the DACF.
To be managed by a governing body, the project will be run by a limited liability company to be known as Offinsoman Cashew Development Company, which has been programmed to put out all the necessary structures that will lead to the establishment of a cashew processing plant.
Strategic partners, Mr. Ntim indicates, “will be sought to make investments for the establishment of a cashew processing factory”.
“Nuts and apples of cashew will be processed into alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, brandy with tomato juice, vinegar, animal feed, cooking oil and kernel extract”, he adds.
The Member of Parliament is highly optimistic of the success of his second “baby” and argues that “since Offinso North is predominantly a farming district with about 82 per cent of its population engaged in agriculture, any strategy for the economic empowerment of its people outside the agricultural sector would certainly be a misplaced strategy”.
“The project with an export potential is envisaged to result in an improvement in the rural living conditions due to increased incomes of the beneficiaries”, says Mr. Ntim who insists that “the project is socially desirable, technically feasible, financially viable and environmentally friendly”.
Vision and creativity at work, you may be tempted to say but you can’t be wrong at all for visionary and creative minds rolled into competent and effective leadership is all what our nation needs in its quest for accelerated and meaningful development.
By Frank Otchere