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The Bono-Ahafo Regional Minister, Eric Opoku, has called for a second look at the mode of compensation payments to cocoa farmers who lose their farms to mining operations. This he said is necessary as time has revealed that such farmers become worse off after a few years due to their inability to properly invest compensation payments and the shock of losing their lands. Mr. Opoku was speaking when he played host to a Diplomatic Delegation, made up of the US Ambassador to Ghana, Gene Cretz, the Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Christopher Thornley and the Australian Trade Commissioner in West Africa, Gordon Chakoadza. The Delegation’s visit to Bono-Ahafo was a familiarization tour with a special focus on the Cocoa and Mining Industries. The first on the itinerary for the Diplomatic Delegation was a courtesy call on the Regional Minister, Eric Opoku, at the RCC in Sunyani. Present were the Deputy Bono-Ahafo Regional Minister, Samuel Justice Agyei and the MP for Tain, Kwesi Gyantutu. The U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz, explained that although they get reports about developments in the country, it pays to visit the Regions and see developments at first hand. He said the cocoa and mining industries were of particular interest due to American interests with the presence of Newmont Ghana in Bono-Ahafo and the international effort to ensure that cocoa farmers benefit more from the multi-million dollar cocoa industry, of which they form a key part. Mr. Cretz said cocoa is crucial for Ghana, thus they hope to help make the industry more sustainable as well as ensure that child labour is not taking place. His Canadian Counterpart, Christopher Thornley, also spoke of Canada-Ghana relations, which has been strong since the 1950s. He said the visit was part of its efforts to find ways of supporting increased productivity of the private sector and education in Ghana and seeing at firsthand how Canadian Mining firms are faring in Ghana, especially with regard to safeguarding the environment. The Bono-Ahafo Regional Minister, Eric Opoku, assured the American Ambassador of a good relationship between Newmont Ghana and the B/A RCC. He praised Newmont for being an exceptionally good corporate citizen of Bono-Ahafo and Ghana, paying 303 million Ghana Cedis in taxes last year and employing a significant number of locals. He also mentioned the Creation of the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation, which has in six years yielded 17 point six million dollars for development in the ten communities in Newmont’s operational areas. He however expressed concern over the mode of compensation payments to cocoa farmers who lose their farms and lands to mining. He said a cost-benefit analysis of the situation shows that farmers lose more in the long run as they give up not only their cocoa trees, but the land as well. Mr. Opoku said compensation payments run out in no time due to investment challenges, plunging the farmers deep into poverty. He therefore called for a critical look at the compensation process in the takeover of lands for mining purposes to make it more responsive to the needs of farmers. The Diplomats then travelled to the Asutifi North District, where they toured a typical cocoa farm at Kwadwokrom. They were received by the farmers and Officials of COCOBOD and Solidaridad Ghana as well as the director of Cocoa Health and Extension Division. The American, Canadian and Australian Diplomats were taking through the various activities on the cocoa farm like; harvesting the pods, collection of the beans, the fermentation process as well as the drying of the cocoa beans.
Source:Biiya Mukusah Ali/developghana.com  
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