Fire has destroyed more than 5,000 acres of cashew farms in the Banda District of the Bono Region this year.
More than 500 farmers in 24 communities in the district have lost their livelihoods, as the fire outbreaks further swept through acres of soya beans, maize and yam farms.
According to the farmers, they raised loans to invest in the farming activities and did not know how they could pay back the financial institutions that granted them the loans and had therefore appealed to the government to assist them.
Banda-Kabrono, Nyire and Gbao were the worst affected farming communities, and the farmers had appealed to the government to support them with seedlings, fertilizers, weedicides and other farm inputs to re-plant their farms.
The farmers identified uncontrolled and unscrupulous activities of local hunters, charcoal burners, as well as the influx of nomadic Fulani herdsmen in the area as the factors contributing to the persistent fire outbreaks in the districts.
Addressing a news conference at Banda-Kabrono, Mrs Helena Awurusa, the 2021 overall national best female farmer, and spokesperson for the affected farmers said she also lost 17.5 acres of cashew and palm plantation.
She said almost all the affected farmers used their farms and properties as a collateral to access loans to engage in commercial plantation of cashew and other cash crops.
Mrs Awurusa said the people are anticipating a severe food shortage due to the extensive destruction of the farms and appealed for food aid for the affected farmers in the deprived communities.
She called on the Banda District Assembly to reinforce its anti-bush fire by-laws to control the recurring fire outbreaks, which had become an annual ritual in the district.
Mrs Awurusa said because of lack of logistical support, activities of the fire volunteers and squads in the local communities had halted for some time now and called on the District Fire Command to revive the volunteers.
She said the district also experienced erratic rains, which slowed down farm work, and that most of the crops they planted perished and appealed to the government to build irrigation facilities in the area.
Mrs Awurusa however, commended the Bono Regional Agricultural Directorate for its support, saying the farmers required more seedlings and inputs to sustain the Government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PfFJs) programme in the district.
Nana Kofi Gbankana, the Chief of Nyire, and the Acting President of the Banda Traditional Area, who lost about four acres of cashew, called on the District Assembly to ban hunting and charcoal burning in the area during the dry seasons.
He said poverty in the area had worsened, and expressed the fear that if nothing was done immediately, the situation would affect security in the area.
Madam Akua Manu Ababio, a resident farmer at Kabrono said because she lost 10 acres of cashew, millet and beans farms, she finds it difficult to cater for the educational needs of her two children at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
“My children are still in the house even though the school has since reopened because I don’t have any money to pay their hostel and other fees”, she said.
Mr Francis Ofori, another farmer at Nyire said he lost about 48 acres of cashew and that “all our investments are gone. We don’t have anything left, and so it would be difficult for many of us to pay back the loans unless the government comes to our aid”, he said.
By Dennis Peprah, GNA
Caption: Pictures show Mad Awurusa (in white) and Akua Manu speaking
to the media. Insert affected cashew farm