The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has started the implementation of a pilot cocoa farmers’ pension scheme in New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region.
The pilot, which is expected to last for two weeks, is to enable the implementers and fund administrators to test the system before the national rollout in October this year.
Some 2,000 cocoa farmers are expected to be registered for the pilot exercise.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last year launched the National Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme in Kumasi and announced that it would be rolled out in October this year.
The scheme is a regulated one sponsored by the COCOBOD to cover registered cocoa farmers and their beneficiaries.
The scheme selected New Edubiase for the pilot project because it is the highest cocoa-producing district in the Ashanti Region.
During a visit to some of the pilot registration centers yesterday, the consultant to Stallion Trust, the fund administrators, Mr. Arnold Mensa-Bonsu, expressed the belief that New Edubiase would be the best place for the trial.
Taking the farmers through the process, Mr. Mensa-Bonsu said all farmers who went for the Cocoa Management System (CMS) and were issued with a card would contribute a maximum of five percent of their cocoa sales to the fund, while COCOBOD would match it with one percent contribution.
He said farmers were, however, at liberty to contribute more than that, and explained that out of the contribution, 25 percent would be put into personal savings for the farmer, while the other 75 percent would go into a retirement account.
While the personal savings could be accessed after five years of contribution, Mr. Mensa-Bonsu said the retirement account could only the accessed upon retirement.
In the case of the personal savings account, he said, a farmer could access 25 percent of the accrued sum after five years and 20 percent after every two years.
He said the main qualification for the pension scheme was for one to be registered and issued with the Ghana Cocoa Card, saying it was the only means through which one could sell cocoa beans and be registered onto the scheme.
Mr. Mensa-Bonsu said the card contained all the details of the farmer, including his or her farm size, and could not be stolen and used by another person because “some of the information on the card is only known to the owner”.
So far, he said, all cocoa farmers in the Western North cocoa region had been registered onto the CMS, while registration in Ashanti was ongoing.
The CMS provides a database for the cocoa industry to track the contribution of farmers and to facilitate prompt payment of claims to beneficiaries.
A 103-year-old cocoa farmer, Opanyin Nkrumah, while expressing gratitude to the government for introducing the pension scheme for cocoa farmers, said it had taken so long to materialize, and joked about he lives long enough to enjoy the benefits of the scheme