President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has launched the Cocoa Farmers’ Pension Scheme, which is expected to benefit an estimated 1.5 million cocoa farmers across the country.
Introducing the ‘3rd-tier retirement’ scheme ends the long-awaited call from cocoa farmers across the country for the state to put in place a decent retirement scheme for them.
This is pursuant to Section 26 of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Law 1984, (PNDC L.81) which mandates COCOBOD to establish a contributory insurance scheme for cocoa farmers.
The scheme is open to all cocoa farmers, and will enable them to make voluntary contributions toward their retirement while COCOBOD makes a supplementary contribution on their behalf.
President Akufo-Addo said the contribution of cocoa farmers over the years has and continues to provide government the needed income used to finance construction of the nation’s infrastructure among others: noting that it was against this backdrop that the provision was made in Section 26 of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Law 1984 (PNDC L.81) to establish a pension scheme for farmers.
However, he said, this has not been realised over so many years, “much to the disapproval of cocoa farmers who continue to make demands for establishment the scheme”.
The president, who was speaking at the scheme’s launch in Kumasi, said it is not just in fulfillment of the law but also government’s plans to improve the living standards of cocoa farmers that efforts were commenced at the start of his administration for this to be realised.
President Akufo-Addo announced that both the legal and technical framework of the scheme have been put in place for a smooth take-off of this all-important scheme.
He noted that this guarantees a decent retirement income for cocoa farmers for life, and ensures they can maintain decent livelihoods after retirement – and therefore entreated all farmers to register in order to enjoy full benefits of the scheme.
While commending all the stakeholders who have contributed to sustenance of the cocoa industry, he reiterated the commitment of government to ensuring the industry receives needed attention.
To ensure the scheme’s successful roll-out, COCOBOD has begun the collection of data on farmers for the Cocoa Management System (CMS) in earnest. The CMS will hold a robust database of all cocoa farmers in the country and track their contributions.
It will also facilitate the prompt payment of claims to beneficiary farmers. Cocoa farmers are therefore encouraged to register under the CMS in order to be part of the scheme.
Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said to make the scheme a formidable one, trustees have been carefully selected to take charge and ensure a successful operation.
To positively manage operations of the venture, the trustees were carefully selected from varied and professionally rich backgrounds.
“Until now, cocoa farmers have complained about their dwindling financial backing as they age, and therefore called for the establishment of a pension scheme.”
The scheme’s launch is therefore expected to brace farmers in times of financial need and during their retirement.
He touched on the many programmes implemented – including Cocoa Farm Rehabilitation, National Pruning Exercise and Hand Pollination programmes among others – to improve the cocoa subsector.
“All these will lead to high cocoa productivity, which ultimately will culminate in improved cocoa revenues.”
The ccheme, he reckoned, will go a long way to entice the youth into nurturing interest for cocoa farming and agriculture in general to revamp and sustain the sector.
The National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), which has the responsibility to regulate and monitor operations of the three-tier pension scheme and ensure effective administration of all pensions in the country, will be in charge of operations for the Cocoa Farmers’ Pensions Scheme.
Chief Executive of the NPRA, Hayford Atta Krufi, said the scheme’s launch is timely and most appropriate – adding that its importance to the socio-economic welfare of cocoa farmers cannot be overemphasised.
To this end, he said, its usefulness is also not in doubt. “In fact, every person needs retirement income security for the future.”
Mr. Atta Krufi stated that every worker – including farmers – in both the formal and informal sectors, is a potential retiree tomorrow; while acknowledging that economic security in old age is very much an integral part of every individual’s well-being.
He said the pension reforms that birthed the three-tier pension structure in 2010, comprising two mandatory schemes and one voluntary scheme, has enabled the NPRA to be given the opportunity to register and roll-out the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme.