SINCE Ghana harvested one million tonnes of cocoa in 2011, the production of the country’s golden pod has not reached that epic level despite efforts by the officials charged to oversee affairs of cocoa to reach that target again.
Factors inhibiting the increase in the yield of cocoa in the country have been attributed to diseases and moribund cocoa trees throughout the cocoa growing areas.
The Western North Regional Manager of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, Mr Samuel Amponsah, told this reporter recently that while 17 per cent of the country’s cocoa trees covering a total area of 315,886.06 hectares were infected with diseases, 22 per cent covering 426,301.75 hectares were moribund and could, therefore, not contribute much to the total annual cocoa yield of the country.
Several interventions have, therefore, been adopted by COCOBOD to enable cocoa farmers to improve on their yield and earn more profits while farming on their small pieces of land without clearing the forest in the face of climate change.
While the moribund and diseased cocoa farms are being destroyed for replanting, low-yielding cocoa farms are undergoing artificial pollination to increase their yields.
One method which is currently causing a revolution in the cocoa industry is artificial pollination.
This is one of the Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEPs) being implemented by COCOBOD to increase cocoa production for the sustenance of the industry.
The exercise, which was preceded with the pruning of cocoa farms, is as a sanitation measure to enhance flower formation upon which the pollination depends.
Brong Ahafo Region
In the Brong Ahafo Region, which is one of the major cocoa growing areas in the country, a total of 4,642 hectares of cocoa farms have undergone artificial pollination this year with 14,186 farmers benefiting from the exercise.
A total of 3,173 young people were engaged by COCOBOD and sent to farms of the beneficiary cocoa farmers to undertake the artificial pollination exercise.
An average number of 58 pods have been counted on cocoa trees in beneficiary farm while it is expected that each acre will yield about 15 bags after harvesting.
Philip Appiah Boakye is a 47-year-old cocoa farmer at Akrodie, near Goaso in the Asunafo North municipality of the Brong Ahafo Region.
A construction technician by profession, he abandoned this work and embarked on cocoa farming 14 years ago.
“I expect this year to be the best year for me,” he told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS as he happily showed took officials of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division of the COCOBOD the extent to which his 12-acre cocoa farm, which had undergone artificial pollination, was yielding result.
As he went from one tree to the other, all of which had more than 60 pods, Mr Boakye stated that even though he had harvested the farm three times this season, the trees continue to bear fruits to his delight.
Last year, when the artificial pollination was piloted, only one acre of his farm benefited from the programme and to his surprise that acre produced a whopping 27 bags instead of three bags the previous cocoa season.
To fully benefit from this programme, Mr Boakye said he employed the artificial pollinators himself this year to supplement what the COCOBOD did this year.
“This is the result that you are witnessing,” he stated, explaining that “I am expecting not less than 250 bags from this 12-acre cocoa farm”.
It was a delight to watch as this reporter toured his farm, which to a larger extent, had gone through best agronomic practices such as clearing of weeds, pruning and spacing to allow the penetration of sunshine and air which are necessary for flowering and the development of pods in a cocoa farm.
He commended the government for such a laudable policy and also thanked officials of CHED for their dedication.
Countering climate change
The acting Brong Ahafo Regional Manager of CHED, Mr Emmanuel Nii-Arku Odai, explained that the pollination initiative was the best since. Over the years, farmers had been putting in their best without getting the required yield to benefit from the sweat of their labour.
He stated that challenges that were noticed when the policy was piloted had been improved on and expressed the hope that the implementation of the pollination programme would even be better next year.
Mr Odai asked cocoa farmers to stick to the right time for pruning, application of fertiliser and clearing of weeds to ensure the development of flowers before starting the artificial pollinations.
“The artificial pollination is technical and that is why we have to train the pollinators to enable them do a better job,” he stated.
For his part, a Principal Technical Officer of CHED, Mr Abdul-Majid Mumuni, said there was the need to preserve the country’s forest to counter the harmful effects of climate change.
“The pollination exercise, in addition to other smart policies that had been introduced into the cultivation of cocoa will ensure that our farmers stayed on a small piece of land but get a better yield,” he explained.
The Goaso District Officer, Mr Kwame Oppong, said it was very difficult convincing the farmers when the programme begun to prune the unnecessary branches and cut some of the trees to pave way for the artificial pollination.
He explained that about 1,321 farms totalling over 3,000 acres of cocoa had undergone artificial pollination in the areas, adding that farmers who embraced the concept and employed the artificial pollinators to add up to what CHED did under the programme would smile all the way to the bank after harvesting.
With the interest of cocoa farmers in the artificial pollination and other programmes, which are yielding the expected results, it is expected that Ghana will reach or surpass the 1million tonnes which it had accrued in 2011 this year. — GB