A Shea farmer in the Northern Region Mr Issah Sulemana has advocated for the establishment of shea plantation to boost the sector in creating job opportunities.
“There are enough shea seedlings in the system that could be used for the plantation project as done for other cash crops in the country” he said.
We can look at shea plantation as cocoa is now facing low price on the world market, yields due to climate change and felling of cocoa trees in preference for rubber plantation, over aged and diseased cocoa trees.
Mr Issah who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Savana Plantations made this known to the B&FT in an interview as part of the follow up to enquire about the state of the shea sector and its implication to the farmers, producers and the processors
“With the growing demand for charcoal, the shea nut tree is at risk of extinction due to the high illegal cutting down of the economic shea trees used as a source of livelihoods for the rural indigenes of the North” he said.
Concrete information gathered indicated that grafted shea trees takes five years to bear fruits of which most seedlings transplanted have started yielding fruits.
This he said has been achieved and recorded on the pilot shea plantation of savanna plantation at Daboya East Gonja District of the Northern Region.
The Chief Executive Officer said there is the need for conscious effort to be made to establish the shea plantation that will help with the sustainability of the sector to boost economic activities of the rural shea farmers to produce more to feed the industries.
From the plantation he said screening can be done to select the plants with desired characteristics for the propagation or proper development adding that other shea producing countries in the sub regions have started establishing large shea plantations from which they are conducting research..
This process is easier done on the plantation than the wild because one may find a shea tree with good genetic traits in the wild and the next moment, it is either destroyed by bushfire or cut down for fire wood, charcoal and other infrastructure development he said.
Mr Sulemana noted that the Cocoa board which is in charge of shea should divest its mandate from shea and concentrate in the cocoa sector which needs a lot of attention to address the current problem facing the cocoa industry.
“We have passed the stage of policy when it comes to shea because since the establishment of the Cocoa Research institute at Bole in 1976 with the sole mandate to conduct research in shea is yet to transfer the developed technology to farmers to establish shea plantation ” he said.
According to him, the National Steering Committee on shea was established in 2011 has not been able to assist farmers to establish shea plantation as is being done for cocoa farmers even though it is under COCOBOD.
“We have the cocoa board deliberately investing in cocoa proposed projects, oil palm plantation board with hundreds of thousand acres of land for oil palm plantation for agribusiness, cashew with also hundreds of thousand acres of cashew plantation which all deserves the boards because there is investment which is the raw materials but shea plantations must be established first before we talk about shea board”he said.
He stressed that the shea crop has still been kept as a wild grown plant despite the fact that a research station was set up over 40 years ago to come out with protocols for plantation establishment.
“So this is the time to establish shea plantation before we think of boards to steers the affairs of the sector” he stated.
“When Tetteh Quarshie brought cocoa to Ghana nobody knew about its agronomic practices and we were also not conversant with its genetic traits but all we knew was that it has economic potentials so it was cultivated and its genetic was studied with selection and biotechnology applied to produce the current varieties within short gestation period and high yields” he narrated.
He appealed to government and invited the private sector to pay attention and invest in shea plantation.