The introduction of the Planting for Export and Rural Development Program (PERD) by the government in 2019 has so far yielded positive results for the people of Akrofuom in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
The Akrofuom District Assembly through its Chief Executive, Dr. Maurice Jonas Woode, and Member of Parliament Alex Blankson have overseen the distribution of more than 50, 000 seedlings to farmers in the district.
The success story of the programme, according to the DCE, has led to an unprecedented number of youth showing interest in planting coconut seedlings which is the crop chosen by the district under the program.
He explained: “Many of the youth who hitherto had lost interest in farming over time with most of them finding solace in illegal mining. But the potential profitability of coconut farming, which can yield fruit in as little as 36 months and can be cultivated year-round – has caused them to reconsider their decision. As a result, many young people are now recognizing the value of this crop, which has led to increased participation in this year’s seedling distribution.”
The DCE made this revelation when he collaborated with the MP to once again distribute 10,000 free coconut seedlings to some farmers in the district.
This comes on the heels of a similar donation last year.
The PERD programme is a decentralized National Tree Crop Programme to promote rural economic growth and improve households’ incomes of rural farmers through the provision of certified improved seedlings, support services and regulatory mechanism.
According to the District Chief Executive Dr. Maurice Jonas Woode, the Assembly has done some calculations and figured out that one acre of land can accommodate around 70 coconut seedlings.
In order to ensure that everyone in the district has an opportunity to benefit from this initiative, they have decided that the maximum number of seedlings to be given away is 140 per person.
With the 10,000 seedlings they have available, they’ll be able to cover approximately 144 acres of land in the district.
“Our goal is to encourage communities that rely primarily on mining to recognize the profitability and advantages of farming. By doing so, we hope to create a shift towards agriculture-friendly economies that can provide new job opportunities and promote sustainable growth,” he stated.
Dr. Maurice Jonas Woode explained that their goal is not only to distribute coconut seedlings to farmers but also to utilize them as raw material for a future coconut processing factory in the district.
He again added that given the high cost of acquiring coconut seedlings in the country , which can be at least GH¢20 per seedling, the Assembly has decided to distribute the seedlings free of charge to farmers.
Again, he said Extension officers have been deployed to monitor the seedlings planted by farmers to prevent diseases and provide support to those encountering difficulties in their farming activities.
“With the benefits already being seen by those who began planting the seedlings at the start of the programme, we are now planning on ways to cultivate coconuts on a large scale in the district and create sales channels for farmers. I would advise those who have received the distributed seedlings to take proper care of their crops to ensure that they mature within the specified time period. It is important to grow the seedlings within 24 hours for a healthy transplant and faster plant growth rate,” Dr. Woode added .
In an interview with Alex Blankson, the Member of Parliament for the Akrofuom Constituency, it was revealed that the MP’s office and DCE’s office have been collaborating to make farming more profitable in the district.
The MP said for the past three years, they have been distributing coconut seedlings to the community, and those who have acquired the seedlings have been able to grow them and they are in healthy condition.
This development he opined, has motivated them to continue distributing the seedlings every year.
In addition, MP Blankson revealed that the ultimate goal of the seedling distribution is to increase the production of coconuts in the district, which will enable the establishment of a coconut processing factory.
This would provide an opportunity to create jobs and support the local economy through the processing of coconut raw materials.
“Initially, the youth were skeptical about the relevance of the program but after witnessing the benefits that those who planted coconut trees gained, more young people participated this year. The plan is to distribute seedlings to encourage continued youth participation and sustaince of the program in subsequent years,” he added.
Lawmaker Alex Blankson also mentioned that they have planned to plant some of the seedlings on lands damaged by illegal mining activities.
The aim is to reclaim the destroyed lands and restore them for productive use.
He believes that by highlighting the profitability of coconut farming, those involved in mining will be willing to collaborate with them to plant coconut trees on the previously mined lands.
This approach will help to not only regain the damaged land but also contribute to the district’s coconut production.
Daniel Badu Avonyo, an Assembly Member for Nkoransa Electoral Area, expressed his delight in receiving free coconut seedlings due to their high cost in the market.
He received a total of 70 coconut seedlings and emphasized that it is important not to politicize every good thing that is brought forth by the ruling government, regardless of their political party.
It is essential to support and appreciate the positive initiatives that benefit the people.