Ensuring income security for cocoa farmers in Ghana – the case of Cocoa Abrabopa Pension Scheme

23-03-2018

Ensuring income security for cocoa farmers in Ghana – the case of Cocoa Abrabopa Pension Scheme

Cocoa Abrabopa Association (CAA) is one of the leading farmer-based organizations in Ghana that has been established to promote the socio-economic well-being of smallholder cocoa farmers. The association was established in partnership with GNBCC Premium Member African Tiger Holding Ltd (ATHL) to sponsor the establishment of a contributory pension scheme within the framework of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766) in order to further enhance the livelihood of members of the association and also ensure their income security during old age.

The pension scheme which is known as the Cocoa Abrabopa Pension Scheme (CAPS) was established in 2013 following detailed study conducted by a consulting company that was contracted by Wienco Ghana Limited, also a Premium Member of GNBCC.

Brief Overview of Cocoa Abrobopa Pension Scheme

What is CAPS?

CAPS is a voluntary fully funded group personal scheme that has been developed purposely for members of Cocoa Abrabopa Association (CAA). The scheme is duly licensed by the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) and has the following objectives: – provide benefits that will ensure retirement income security for members of CAA; and serve as a source of livelihood promotion for members of CAA.

Contribution rate

Each registered member of the Scheme is required to contribute the monetary equivalent of two (2) bag (64kg) of cocoa per year, while the sponsors of the scheme deposit the equivalent of fifty (50) dollars per member per year into a Special Fund on behalf of each contributing member during the first three (3) years of the operations of the Scheme. The contribution rate was agreed by the members at their annual general meeting and is subject to change based on rules adopted by the Association.

Additional Voluntary contributions

Each registered member of CAPS is permitted to make additional voluntary contributions in excess of the agreed contribution rate.

Two Individual Accounts

Contributions by a member is divided into two equal parts and credited to the individual’s Retirement and General Savings Accounts after deduction of a minimal life insurance premium, which provides the beneficiaries of a deceased member with an enhanced Survivor’s Benefit. It is important to note that, most cocoa farmers resort to borrowing from the Cocoa Purchasing Clerks at very exorbitant interest rates when their cocoa beans are not ready for sale.

Hence, the General Savings Account is intended to instill the culture of savings amongst members to enable them meet their short term needs especially during the fallow season. However, the Retirement Account is intended to cater for the long term financial needs of the member when he can no longer continue with his/her vocation.

Benefits

A member of the scheme is entitled to the following benefits:

  • Retirement Benefit: Any member who is aged 60 years or above is entitled to a Retirement Benefit

  • Disability Benefit: Any member who has been certified by a recognized Medical Board to be incapable of normal gainful employment is entitled to a Disability Benefit

  • Survivors’/Death Benefit: The nominated beneficiaries of a deceased member are entitled to a Survivors’/ Death Benefit

Operational updates

The operations of CAPS started in 2013. Currently, the scheme has a membership of about 3,000 cocoa farmers with total asset base of GHC 1.1 million. The total claims paid out to members amounts to about GHC 35,000.

Management of Caps

Board of trustees

CAPS is governed by a 5-member Board of Trustees, including an Independent Trustee, who are all licensed by the NPRA. The Board is charged with the responsibility of ensuring proper management of the scheme in line with the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766).

Service Providers

The board has appointed the following service providers to assist with the proper management of CAPS. They are:

  • Glico Pensions Trustee Limited – Scheme Administrators

  • Gold Coast Fund Management Limited – Fund Manager

  • Ecobank Ghana Limited – Custodian

Administrative Secretary

The board has also appointed an Administrative Secretary to liaise between the Board, the Service Providers, NPRA and other stakeholders in order to ensure effective management of the scheme.

Payment System

The fast breeze of information technology is catching up with most industries, and the cocoa sector is not an exception. Technology will revolutionize the financial market space with the objective of embracing a cashless economy.

Hence, the managers of CAPS continually work to provide transactional enhancement to beneficiaries of the scheme and has now introduced a mobile money portal with the aim of saving farmers from joining long queues at the bank to either deposit contributions or withdraw their benefits.

Of course, this does not restrict contribution payments using cocoa beans. The mobile money payment medium has also saved farmers from unscrupulous people who may rob them on their way to the banks.

The Scheme mobile money arrangement has been made possible in partnership with MTN Ghana Limited and Ecobank Ghana Limited. Consequently, members of CAPS only need to dial *170# and follow 6 simple steps to make their contributions.

In order to ensure that scheme members embrace this new mode of contribution and benefit payment, the managers of the scheme periodically organize training sessions for CAPS members to enable them familiarize themselves with the easy steps to access the facility on their mobile phones. In addition, members receive periodic statements of their account balances via SMS.

FUTURE PLANS

Extension of Scheme to All Cocoa farmers in Ghana

The welfare of cocoa farmers is paramount interest to CAA. Hence, the association will seek to extend the membership of CAPS to all cocoa farmers in Ghana Consequently, measures are currently being put in place in order to ensure that all cocoa farmers can become members of CAPS.

Development of CAPS Mobile App

The scheme is planning to make further technological advancement in creating the CAPS mobile App that will enable easy accessibility to all members and interested parties. The App will have modules for Member Registration, Claims Payments, On-line checking of member Statement and update of beneficiary details.

Introduction of Bulk Payment System

For the year 2018, the scheme shall commence the payment of claims to members through Bulk Payment System via MTN Mobile money. This system of funds transfer, which is cost-effective and convenient will facilitate easy payment of claims to all CAPS members and eliminate any delays in claims processing.

CONCLUSION

The sponsors CAPS (CAA and ATHL) believe that the introduction of the pension scheme for cocoa farmers will ensure a glorious future for cocoa farmers in the country. It will be a welcome relief to these farmers who have contributed substantially in maintaining the socio-economic development of the country.  Cocoa farmers in Ghana deserve a better life after retirement, and hence, CAPS is intended to make this dream a reality. 

For more information, consult www.cocoabrabopa.org

This article also appreared in the Business & Financial Times of March 12th 2018. Online: https://thebftonline.com/business/ensuring-income-security-for-cocoa-farmers-in-ghana-the-case-of-cocoa-abrabopa-pension-scheme/ 

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