In an effort to mitigate the impact of climate change on cocoa production and productivity, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), industry regulator, has started a pilot irrigation system in the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regions.
The pilot cocoa districts include Techiman, Goaso, Sankore and Nkrankwanta. The COCOBOD is expected to expand the irrigation system to cover more farms in the coming months. However, the expansion will be subject to the success or otherwise of the pilot project.
The Regional Manager of Cocoa Health Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, in charge of Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regions, Emmanuel Dede Anochi, who disclosed this said the cocoa irrigation system will be constructed at vantage places with large stretch of farms, between 5 to 20 hectares in order to cover many farms to achieve the intended purpose.
Climate change has led to increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and changes in extreme weather conditions like erratic rainfall patterns. The situation remains a major threat to cocoa production and productivity in the country.
“In the light of climate change and particularly during dry season, cocoa trees experience extreme moisture stress, leading to flower abortions as well as withering of a sizeable number of transplanted seedlings, hence the intervention to minimise its negative effect to sustain the cocoa industry, Mr. Anochi said.
Distribution of seedlings and rehabilitation
He expressed concern about the failure of some farmers to plant the free distributed seedlings by the COCOBOD, indicating that the trend is an affront to the effort to replacing moribund and disease-infested trees for sustainable production.
“It’s over ten year since COCOBOD started the free distribution of improved seedlings to farmers. Last year alone we distributed about 60 million. But most farmers will take and waste them by not replanting the seedlings. If the farmers had replanted and nature about quarter of the seedlings, the country would have really made a headway,” he lamented.
In order to change the narrative, Mr. Anochi said COCOBOD had decided to supply only farmers who are ready and committed. “Before we will supply you with the seedlings, you must have prepared the land by growing plantains for about a year to provide shade for the seedlings to survive. The era of wasting resources is over, we all must think business.”
The CHED officer stated that about 23 percent of cocoa trees across the country are moribund (overage), thus adversely affecting productivity. This he said, has compounded the situation as many other trees have also been attacked by the cocoa swollen shoot virus (CSSV) disease, saying “in all about 40 percent of the country’s cocoa farm cover is moribund and CSSV-infested.” This makes the ongoing cocoa rehabilitation a very crucial intervention and urged farmers to embrace the exercise to correct the situation, he stressed.
Mr. Anochi was addressing a durbar to inaugurate Amomaso Adom Area Cooperative and Marketing Society at Amomaso in the Berekum Cocoa Municipal of the Bono Region. He advised the farmers to eschew individualism and uphold the principle of espirit de corps to promote the ultimate interest of the cooperative. “Forming cooperatives is the way to go, if farmers want a turnaround in this agribusiness.”
Berekum Municipal Cocoa Officer, Edem Kwabla Nutakor, on his part mentioned aging farmers’ population, inadequate extension officers and farmers’ failure to adhere to good agronomic practices as some common challenges militating against cocoa production and productivity in that part of the country.
He however stated that conscious efforts were been made to improve cocoa farming in the Berekum enclave, adding that the number of extension officers have increased from six (2014-2019) to 25 now, hand pollinators have also been increased from 215 in 2019 to 310 in 2020 whilst some farmers have also been trained to practice it. About 3,200 hectares were covered by the mass pruning exercise and 1.2 million improved seedlings distributed to farmers, he added.