The implementation of the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) programme, in the Akrofuom District, in the Ashanti Region, is helping to curb illegal mining activities in the area.
Many young people, who prior to the implementation of the programme, were depending on illegal mining, popularly known as “galamsey” for their livelihoods, are turning to farming and taking advantage of the flagship programme of the government.
Dr. Maurice Jonas Woode, the District Chief Executive (DCE) said the intervention is making significant impact in the fight against illegal mining. He was speaking during a presentation of 10,000 free cocoa seedlings to some cocoa farmers under the PERD programme at Akrofoum.
The DCE, in collaboration with the Member of Parliament (MP), Mr. Alex Blankson, made the presentation, bringing up to 50,000 the total number of seedlings distributed to farmers so far in the area.
According to the DCE, the programme had culminated in unprecedented number of youth showing interest in planting coconut seedlings which is the crop chosen by the district under the programme.
“Many of the youth, hitherto, had no interest in farming. Over the time most of them found solace in illegal mining. However, the potential profitability of coconut farming, which can yield fruits in as little as 36 months and could be cultivated all year-round – has caused them to reconsider their decision,” he said.
He said many young people have recognised the value of the crop, which has led to increased participation in this year’s seedling distribution.
The PERD programme is a decentralised 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.
“Our goal is to encourage communities that rely primarily on mining to recognise 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 said.
Dr. Woode said the long-term objective of the distribution of coconut seedlings was to ensure availability of raw materials for a future coconut processing factory in the district.He said extension officers have been deployed to monitor the seedlings planted by the 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,” the DCE observed.
Mr. Alex Blankson said his office and the Assembly had been collaborating to make farming more profitable in the district.
“Initially, the youth were skeptical about the relevance of the programme but after witnessing the benefits that those who planted coconut trees gained, more young people participated this year,” he said.
He said plans were underway to plant some of the seedlings on lands damaged by illegal mining activities to reclaim them for agricultural purposes.