The livelihoods of about 200 tobacco farmers and traders at Mpakadan, a farming community in the Eastern Region are at stake following the closure of Ghana’s borders and restrictions on movement.
President Akufo-Addo in March 2020 announced the closure of the borders as one of several measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic but the farmers say their businesses are crumbling as a result of the 18-month long closure.
Though some farmers cultivate other crops including maize, pepper, cassava and others as their occupation, lucrative tobacco farming is predominant.
The current crop of farmers inherited the activity from their parents and grandparents whom they helped in the farms as children.
As tobacco farmers, this is their major source of livelihood with good income from buyers mainly from Togo with some local buyers as well.
Mahu Gladys has been farming tobacco for the past thirty-five years. Giving a background of tobacco farming in the community, she said, “We used to help our parents cultivate tobacco which was supplied to a company. They are now old and this is what they taught us and we have also taken after them to earn a living.”
While it costs her about GHC900 to cultivate her farm, she said the returns have dropped sharply due to the cancellation of cross-border trade as their main buyers from Togo have been locked out. This has led to sharp drops in their sales, threatening their major source of livelihood.
According to Mahu Gladys, the few local buyers who buy their stuff take advantage of their current predicament to dictate their prices.
“The borders have been closed so we don’t have buyers now. The few buyers who come determine their own prices and you’re compelled to accept it since there is no market,” she lamented.
She continued, “You’re unable to recoup your investment because it will go waste if it is left in the farms so you sell it cheaply.”
She said their children who must continue their education have been left at home due to their inability to afford their fees.
According to the farmers, the cost of ploughing their farms and fertilizers is another headache confronting them.
The farmers while appealing to the government to assist them to plough their farms said, they suffer losses at the nurseries due to delays in ploughing the land.
“This job is very difficult but there’s no alternative. Even getting a tractor to plough the land is difficult. If you don’t have the money to plough it, the seedlings die at the nurseries. There is no market and the fertilizer is also scarce and expensive,” said Celestine Amewugah, another tobacco farmer.
The 52-year-old also said, “Our buyers are mostly from Togo and this means there is no market because the borders have been closed. We buy the fertilisers at GHC200 per bag so if the market is bad, we lose,” another complained.
Assemblyman for Mpakadan, Honourable Leo Oscar, himself a tobacco farmer with 3 acres of the crop, appealed for the reopening of the borders as a measure to re-establish their livelihoods and ease their pain.
He added that building a factory in the community to process the tobacco would greatly boost the activities of the farmers.
“The people are crying for the opening of the borders to boost their farming activities and trade, but that is not all, establishing a factory here in Mpakadan to process the tobacco produced into various products would enhance their income and create more opportunities for them,” said the Assemblyman. Read Full Story