The introduction of motorised pruners and slashers which seek to take cocoa farmers away from the use of traditional implements for farming, coupled with other policies already being implemented in the cocoa subsector, is expected to help the country meet its targeted cocoa yields.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, with some remarkable progress already being recorded in the hand-pollination exercise, the addition of these new tools to support the mass pruning exercise will help to boost productivity.
He said: “Apart from the fact that pruning is going to control and remove mistletoe, it is also going to improve upon aeration, sunlight penetration and reduce the pressure of pests and diseases. This enhances the production of flowers for pollination, and subsequently pod development”.
He explained that this is one of the major reasons behind the new intervention, particularly because this will help cocoa farmers improve upon their yields per hectare.
He observed that use of the ‘multipurpose machine’ which is easy to carry and operate, even by women farmers, will enable easy movement in the farm during other farm operations, such as harvesting, fertiliser application, and spraying.
The COCOBOD Chief Executive disclosed that about 100,000 pruners and slashers have now been procured and sent for distribution to farmer cooperative groups across cocoa growing districts of the country.
He said the machines will be sold, on credit, to the farmer-cooperative groups for a period of not less than three years at a cost of GH¢5,000 – with a payment schedule spread to cover the period. “I am very optimistic that once they carry out pruning and apply fertiliser, which is also given to them on credit, the farmer should not get less than ten bags of cocoa beans per acre.”
Mr. Boahen Aidoo was speaking in an interview at the backdrop of launching motorised pruners and slashers at Nkawie in the Atwima Nwabiagya South Municipality of the Ashanti Region, and also said the hand-pollination exercise that has been piloted for almost three years will be scaled-up this year.
“All our pilot programmes indicate that cocoa farmers have moved from producing less than three bags of cocoa beans per acre to ten bags. When they applied the hand-pollination, they further moved to produce fifteen to twenty bags per acre.”
Addressing cocoa farmers at the ceremony to launch the motorized pruners and slashers, he urged cocoa farmers to continue adopting better agronomic practices to among other things boost productivity.
He also cautioned farmers against the practice of ‘slash and burn’ and the application of weedicides to their farms.
The National President of the Cocoa, Coffee, Shea nut Association (COCOSHE), Alhaji Alhassan Bukari, said he is hopeful that the intervention will bring significant improvement to the lives of cocoa farmers in the country.
He however appealed to all cocoa farmers who are yet to identify with a farmer group to endeavour joining a farmer-cooperative group in order to benefit from the new tools being deployed by the COCOBOD to help increase productivity.
The Minister of State for Food and Agriculture at the Presidency, Dr. Nurah Gyiele, said the cocoa subsector is witnessing an unprecedented transformation and pledged the ministry’s support for the work being done.
He said since its assumption of office, government has embarked on programmes and interventions targetting every aspect of agriculture.
“The design of these programmes is such that they comprehensively address the challenges of each subsector, thereby gradually eliminating bottlenecks which have held back agricultural growth and development in the past.”
The motorised pruners and slashers will serve as ideal tools to facilitate the mass-pruning exercise. The machine has multipurpose functions for weeding and pruning. According to COCOBOD, it is more efficient for weed control because it requires less energy input from the farmer as compared to the use of machetes.
The use of slashers to control weeds helps prevent the use of ‘weedicides’ which leave residual levels of chemicals in the cocoa beans.
Pruning can be done traditionally with machetes; but for effective and effective pruning to be done, it is highly recommended to use motorised pruners.
The use of slashers reduces chances of injury to cocoa trees, such as branch tear, damage to buds on the tree among others, while slashers considerably reduce the fatigue of users due to less energy requirements during cutting.