Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has rolled out a rehabilitation programme for cocoa farms affected by the swollen shoot disease in the Western North Cocoa Region.
As part of the rehabilitation exercise, COCOBOD has directed all diseased cocoa trees to be cut down for re-planting with new hybrid cocoa seedlings.
Cocoa production in the country has declined in the past 10 years due to Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD), which has no chemical control.
This is having negative effects on production and livelihood of cocoa farmers, as well as cocoa business and the industry in general.
Cocoa farmers have virtually lost everything, and this cocoa season it is not likely farmers in the Western North Region can pick a lot of pods from the farm.
The Western North Region is the hub of Ghana’s cocoa industry and produces one-third of cocoa production, but an area of 535,825.91 hectares is suffering from the disease.
According to a second nation-wide survey on cocoa, 42% of trees stocks in the region are diseased.
Also, a third nationwide survey conducted on 225,953.92 hectares on cocoa farms revealed that 156,114.4 hectares, representing 69.09%, were also declared diseased and therefore unproductive. This indicates that the situation is very alarming.
And with all these, production will continue to be zero if there is no intervention. To salvage the situation and make the cocoa industry vibrant, COCOBOD introduced a laudable programme some years ago known as the ‘Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme’, which involved cutting down cocoa trees affected by the disease and re-planting.
A break in implementing this programme between 2014 and 2017 led to the present massive outbreak of disease that has brought the cocoa industry this low.
“The idea of rehabilitation is that we are cutting all the affected areas for the farmers and COCOBOD is providing some benefits to the farmers such as paying of compensation; we are paying GH¢1,000 to farmers and another GH¢1,000 for landowners. So, in all, COCOBOD is spending GH¢2,000 on one hectare,” Kwame Owusu Ansah, Regional Manager-Cocoa Health Extension Division of COCOBOD, explained to the media at Yawmatwa, a cocoa town at Essam (Cocoa district) in the Bia East district of Western North Region.
According to him, 4,500‘indigenes’ have been engaged as labourers in Western North to support the rehabilitation activities in areas such as land and pegging, planting, weeding among others. Also, 456 disease-spotters and 138 Technical Assistants (TAs) have been engaged.
“So far, 10,205.52 of the spotted diseased farms have been treated and planted with plantain suckers and cocoa. This involves 6,205 farmers, out of which 5,603 have been fully compensated.
“It is only a matter of time before these farms become productive again” he added.
Mr. Owusu-Ansah mentioned that the rehabilitation programme’s next phase next phase, which starts on August 17, 2020, is expected to cover an area of 20,126 hectares.
“The region was given 7,500 hectares last year to treat, but we exceeded our target to 10,000 – and all these areas were planted with cover-crops within the second year; we also planted cocoa just two months ago,” he added.
“The rehabilitation’s success has so far been good. By next two-three years, they will see the success of this intervention,” he pointed out.
He added that COCOBOD is going to intervene for the next five years, and that will be in phases: “This year, COCOBOD has given Western North 20,000 hectares to treat”.
He said it is worth mentioning that the current programme is being funded by part of the US$600m syndicated loan facility granted by the consortium of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), led by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“The previous programme was funded solely from the Board’s budgetary allocation, which was quite unsustainable,” he explained.
“We believe that apart from facilitating a successful implementation of the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme, the AfDB loan will support us to strengthen the cocoa value chain and help alleviate poverty by increasing productivity, as well as promote a progressive and sustainable cocoa economy,” he mentioned.
“All hope is not lost. With the current measures which will undoubtedly lead to a smooth implementation of the programme, coupled with the support of farmers and other stakeholders, Ghana’s cocoa industry is on the verge of a massive rejuvenation,” he assured Ghanaians.
Benjamin Teye Larweh, Principal Public Affairs Officer at COCOBOD, further explained that the rehabilitation is a national programme but COCOBOD has opted to start at the Eastern and Western-North Regions due to the magnitude of destruction in the two regions.
He said COCOBOD is not only cutting down cocoa trees infected by the disease, but also those which have exhausted their life-span.
He was however quick to add that the intervention will soon be rolled out in other regions where the swollen shoot disease has been detected.
Steven Awuah, a farmer at Yawmatwe (Essam Cocoa district) said: “Initially, most of us resisted the rehabilitation programme because we thought it would not work for us.
“We have all seen farms which started with the rehabilitation, and you can see there has been a lot of improvement,” he said.
He praised COCOBOD for such an intervention: “This will go a long way to bring back the once-vibrant cocoa industry in some few years to come”.