Cocoa farmers at Akyem Asafo and its adjoining villages and hamlets have vowed not to cede any part of their 860 cocoa farms on which they cultivate cocoa for the establishment of a military camp.
The area forms part of the cocoa belt in the Abuakwa South Municipality in the Eastern Region.
This came to light when the Head of Anti Illegal Mining Unit of the COCOBOD, Professor Michael Kwateng, paid a working visit to the community after receiving a petition from them to register their protest against the use of part of their land for the establishment of a military camp.
In an interview with some of the farmers at Akyem Asafo near Akyem Tafo on Thursday, a female farmer, Mina Ataa Gyankuma, told the Daily Graphic that their cocoa farmlands could not be taken away from them since they depended solely on cocoa for their livelihoods.
The woman, aged 70, who had been cultivating cocoa for the past 50 years said without her cocoa farm, she would not be able to cater for herself and dependants.
She therefore called on the government to immediately intervene to make it impossible for the proposed military camp in the area to come into fruition.
She alleged that the chief of Akyem Asafo, Barima Dankwanin Boampong, was behind the taking over of the cocoa farms for setting up of the military camp.
Ms Gyankuma who indicated that the residents in the area did not need a military camp however said they willingly allocated some of the lands for the construction of a senior high school, a clinic as well as a police station few years ago because of their benefits.
The President of the Akyem Asafo Concerned Farmers Association, Godwin Ofori, who buttressed the points raised by Ms Gyankuma said they were surprised when they realised that the said land had been demarcated and pegged ostensibly for a military camp project.
He noted that the government before the pegging of the land had supplied them with cocoa seedlings to cultivate but wondered why the same had been earmarked for a different purpose.
Delving deep into the issue, Mr Ofori stated that it was the Akyem Asafo Chief who told them that the military consulted the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, for land for the military camp project after which the Abontendomhene allocated the land.
He said they did not believe it because neither the Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, nor any military hierarchy had contacted them on such an issue.
He called for a round-table discussions on the issue with all the stakeholders particularly the military.
In response to the allegations against him, however, Barima Dankwanin Boampong said the cocoa farmers were aware of the military camp project because the military officers met the chiefs and people of Akyem Asafo at the palace after which they visited portions of the land.
He also explained that since the Okyenhene was his overlord, he therefore contacted him on the issue.
That, Barima Boampong said, was because he had no power to take cocoa farmers lands for military camp.
He directed all residents especially cocoa farmers who did not agree to the establishment of the military camp to quickly seek audience with the Okyenhene to address the issue.
Professor Kwateng, who after listening was not happy about the current development in the area, said three days ago, he had a petition from the farmers that their 860 cocoa farms had been earmarked for destruction as such COCOBOD could not sit unconcerned.
According to Professor Kwateng in the petition, the farmers alleged that Barima Dankwanin Boampong and others were also destroying the cocoa farms.
He said investigations revealed that the Akyem Asafo Chief had cut down some of the cocoa trees and sold the land to illegal miners.
Professor Kwateng pointed out that investigations by his outfit revealed that some of the cocoa trees on the farm of the chief had been cut down.
He said COCOBOD in view of such circumstances had set up a secretariat to deal with issues relating to cocoa production.
“We have been getting report from farmers across the country about destructions of their farms but we also get to know that the farmers themselves have been selling their farms to illegal miners”.
“The issue of farmers selling their cocoa farms had become a thing of the past because of a rise in the price of cocoa”, Professor Kwateng indicated.
With regard to selling cocoa farmlands to illegal miners, Professor Kwateng said no cocoa farmer had the right to sell his or her farm to them in the area.
He advised cocoa farmers to desist from selling their farmlands to illegal miners because cocoa has been the backbone of the country’s economy.
When contacted on the issue, the State Secretary of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council, Dan Ofori-Atta, confirmed that the military command applied to the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, for land to establish a military camp at Akyem Asafo.
He explained that since all stool lands within the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council were vested in the authority of the Okyenhene, the Okyenhene said all those on the lands to be used for the military camp would be compensated.
Mr Ofori-Atta indicated that since the Okyenhene had the interest of the people of Akyem Asafo and its surrounding communities at heart he would definitely ensure they were compensated.
He further explained that the establishment of the military camp in the area would help deal with crime rate and provide adequate security for the people, as such it was not a bad thing at all.
Mr Ofori-Atta stated that the military could have gone straight to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, without going to Okyenhene in the first place for such purpose.
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