COCOA farmers in the Western Region have described as criminal a false report by a foreign media that staged and filmed a scene in a cocoa farm in the region under the guise of being Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) officials.
This followed publication by Qatar-based media organisation Al Jazeera whose reporters visited Ohiampeanika in the Amenfi West District in the Western Region and disguised themselves as officials of COCOBOD
The Al Jazeera reporter speaking through a Ghanaian interpreter told the unsuspecting farmers that they were from COCOBOD and their mission was to interact with them and document their challenges and together help provide solutions.
The farmers said after discussions on production and answering their questions, the Al Jazeera team requested to visit a nearby cocoa farm for some videos to support their discussions after which the supposed officials made a lot of promises to the farmers.
A former Assembly member for the area, Samuel Ofori Asare, who featured in the Al Jazeera report, said the media house did not tell them about their intention.
“The interesting thing was that it was on Sunday and they claimed to be COCOBOD officials and when they requested to go to one of the farms, a resident, Owusu Gyan, whose farm was nearby, agreed to take them to his farm,” he said.
Mr Asare said the team from Al Jazeera which they now know as pressmen “requested if they could get some children to go with them so they could carry the baskets in which the cocoa pods were conveyed as part of the process.”
He said three of Mr Gyan’s teenage nephews returning from church were asked to change their clothes and go to their uncle’s farm.
“In the farm, the Al Jazeera journalist told the farmers to use the machete to harvest the pods from the tree and give it to the children to open them to enable them to film.
He said the Ohiampeanika community who were waiting for the support the supposed COCOBOD officials promised were shocked to see an Al Jazeera TV report on child labour on their farms.
“We don’t use children or engage in child labour in our cocoa production and it is therefore wrong for Al Jazeera to visit us on Sunday and pose as COCOBOD officials and stage a scene to support their assumption and broadcast it to the world,” he said.
He said as the false report has gone viral, the farmers would seek legal redress to ensure that the reporter and the media house are brought to book for criminalising cocoa production not only in the Ohiampeanika area, but the region and the country as a whole.
For their part, the Director of Special Services at COCOBOD, Charles Amenyaglo, described the actions of the Al Jazeera team at Ohiampeanika as criminal and that a report had subsequently been lodged with the police.
The police, he said, were currently investigating the incident and appealed to all those who played a part in the discussions leading to the false publication to cooperate with the police.
He said Ghanaian cocoa farmers did not engage children in cocoa farming at the expense of their education, among others.