In its bid to effectively empower farmers engaged in cashew production to make them economically viable, the Department of Agriculture in the Mfantseman Municipal Assembly has resolved to cultivate more than 1,000 acres of cashew within 24 months.
Mr Ebenezer Azasu, the Municipal Director of Agriculture who made the disclosure in an interview with GNA, said this year would see a massive increase and distribution of the cashew seedlings because more farmers were getting on board.
The project is one of the key strategic interventions for the “Ghana Beyond Aid” Agenda in line with government’s coordinated Programme on Economic and Social Development Policies through the “Planting for Exports and Rural Development” (PERD).
It is an integral part of a decentralised National Tree Crop Programme to promote rural economic growth and improve household incomes of rural farmers by providing certified improved seedlings, extension services, business support and regulatory mechanisms focusing on cashew, coffee, cotton, coconut, citrus, oil palm, mango, rubber and shea value chains.
Through the initiative, government hopes to create jobs and produce sustainable raw material base towards the national industrialisation drive dubbed the “One District, One Factory” (1D1F) policy initiative.
Mr Azasu stated that the Assembly had cultivated 250 acres of cashew on pilot basis with about 300 enthusiastic farmers supplied with thousands of hybrid cashew polyclonal seeds that were disease resistant.
That gesture, formed part of government’s commitment to freely distribute 13 million certified cashew seedlings to farmers in 96 cashew growing districts across the country.
For the pilot year 2018, the programme distributed 9.3 million cashew seedlings to 64,000 farmers in 106 districts and was estimated to contribute about 53 per cent of total contribution of the non-traditional exports to the Ghanaian economy in 2018, an increase from 44 per cent in 2017.
To give strong boost to the sector, Mr Azasu said his outfit would also increase theoretical knowledge and practical skills of cashew farmers along the value chain and consequently to further promote the competitiveness of cashew from the municipality.
That would be done through strategic innovations like the Master Training Programme that will build capacities, skills and experiences of cashew value chain actors especially farmers.
That is against the backdrop that the municipality had only eight extension officers serving more than 144,332 population with 64,923 male and 79,409 females with limited logistics to effectively reach out to farmers.
He was happy that the cashew trees were free from infestation such as angular leaf spot, helopeltis bugs, coconut bug, cashew weevil, and black mould, among others and attributed the feat to increased farmers’ engagements and accessible extension agents who were well determined to go all out regardless of their numerous challenges.
Farmers initially were skeptical about the industry due to land tenure issues, quality seedlings, lack of knowledge and marketing challenges, he noted and called on government to speed up the implementation of the Cashew Development Board to regulate the activities of the sector.
Mr Azasu urged the youth to take keen interest in the programme to guarantee them sustainable income for themselves and their families.