To mark Valentine’s Day and all things chocolaty, today’s blog is by a female cocoa farmer in Ghana. Vida Tsatso Boaful talks about her involvement in the Rainforest Alliance Certification Programme, why it is so important for women, and the impact the programme has had on her life and the environment.
My name is Vida Tsatso Boaful, a cocoa farmer at Nkranfum, a community in the Assin North Municipality and part of the iMPACT – Rainforest Alliance Certification Programme.
The land I am farming on right now is family land; so I can say the part I am using for my cocoa production is mine and this applies to most of the women in the Rainforest Alliance programme, except a few that practice the “abunu” share cropping system.
I also belong to a group of women who process cassava into “gari” and I am their treasurer.
I am part of the Rainforest Alliance Certification Programme because I want to be trained in improved and efficient ways of cultivating cocoa, so as to let my cocoa trees last longer, increase my yield, get some premium on the sale of my beans and also conserve and protect existing ecosystems in and around my farm.
I have now realised there were so many things we used to think and do that were normal practices from time memorial, and just did not think that some of these practices were negatively affecting our lives, the soil, water bodies and our environment.
Some of these practices included farming so close to the swamps and sometimes even going to the extent of poisoning water bodies with dangerous chemicals with the intention of catching fish very easily. We also used to clear the trees and other forms of vegetation that used to be around these water bodies.
I used to fell the bigger trees on my cocoa farm because I didn’t see the reason why they should be on my farm. The worst of all was that these trees attracted the chainsaw operators who would come and fell them, causing damage to my cocoa trees. So the safest thing that I thought was to kill these trees when they were young.
I would sometimes follow the mass sprayers to ensure that they had done a good job on my farm, and not wea anything for protection against the chemicals that were being applied. I sometimes even got my children to help me fetch water for the sprayers even as the spraying was going on.
Since my involvement in the programme, my yield in cocoa production keeps improving and has increased from about three bags per acre to about 10 bags per acre since I started practicing what I had been taught during the training sessions. Most women in the programme would testify to that fact. Our children are also now happily in school.
I used to feel intimidated amongst my fellow women but after some time in this programme, that inferiority complex has vanished to the extent that I can even speak boldly in the presence of the men.
If we the women in the programme have been able to increase our yields in these recent years after going through such training, then I think other women in other cocoa farming communities can do same, or even better, when trained. I also think we the women can manage bigger farms and get better yields when empowered and when this happens our dependence on the men (our husbands) financially would be reduced.