Graphic Business News

Smallholder farmers key to oil palm sector

By: Jessica Acheampong
Mr Abraham Baffoe
Mr Abraham Baffoe

The Africa Regional Director of Proforest, Mr Abraham Baffoe, has reiterated the need for the country to empower its smallholder farmers to boost productivity in the oil palm sector.

He said smallholders had the potential to produce more if given the needed training and support.

In an interview after the fourth regional meeting of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020 Africa Palm Oil initiative in Accra, Mr Baffoe said in Ghana, smallholder farmers accounted for about 80 per cent of the land under oil palm development, yet their productivity was very low.

“Smallholders get about five to six tonnes per hectare, whereas the major companies get between 16 and 17 tonnes per hectare. So if you can work with smallholders to improve productivity per hectare, we do not need to extend into forest areas to achieve the target,” he stated.

He explained that the country was currently importing oil palm although it had the potential to grow it; and

“We also know that Ghana is a net importer of oil palm. Even though we grow oil palm here, we still import over 50,000 tonnes every year to meet the demands. Ghana is spending the meagre resources to bring in oil palm, something that originates from West Africa, and we need to address that,” he noted.

Mr Baffoe indicated that oil palm was equally a major foreign exchange earner for the government and it was important to regulate the sector as was being done for cocoa.

“One of the things we thought important was to have an oil palm board similar to what we have in cocoa to regulate the sector so that the government would have control over the whole sector rather than allowing them to do things on their own,” he said.

Mr Baffoe explained that the TFA had started engaging the government and companies to see how best to develop the sector.

Inclusive growth
The Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, said although an increase in oil palm production could boost economic growth, it was important to ensure that it was done sustainably, something the TFA was advocating.

He mentioned that measures should be taken to ensure that there was a balance between potential economic growth and conservation of the environment.

He stressed the need to create public, private partnerships with the support of civil society organisations and development partners to address the issues inhibiting sustainable oil palm production in West Africa.

Fourth regional meeting
The session in Accra, which is the fourth since the programme started in 2015, was to give the participating countries the opportunity to provide updates on the progress that had been made so far with respect to addressing deforestation.

The TFA is, thus, through its 2020 Africa Palm Oil Initiative, trying to work with the private and public sectors to address the issues in the commodity supply change to stop deforestation and its associated impacts.

All the 10 countries have their national action plans as to how they are going to address deforestation. Ghana developed its principles and finalised them about a year and half ago.

In 2016, seven governments from West and Central Africa, including Ghana, met in Morocco to sign a commitment to implement the principles developed towards sustainable oil palm production.