The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the Volcani Centre of Israel have signed a memorandum of understanding for a scientific research collaboration into finding an immediate and lasting solution to the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) which at presently has affected hundreds of thousands of hectares of cocoa farm in Ghana, making them unproductive.
Scientist from the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG), the scientific research wing of COCOBOD, based in Tafo, will join forces will scientist from the Volcani Centre on the various processes that will lead ultimately to a remedy to CSSVD and the effective control of its disease vector. They will further work together on ways to improve cocoa farm yields in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.
The Volcani Centre, which was established in 1921, has been described as the best agricultural research centre in the world. The success of this collaborative scientific research effort will have far-reaching implications for local cocoa production and that of the entire subregion of cocoa producing countries, who like Ghana, have also been plagued for years by CSSVD.
The MOU was signed today on behalf of COCOBOD by its Chief Executive, Hon. Joseph Boahen Aidoo and on behalf of the Volcani Centre, by Professor Eli Fenerman at a ceremony at the Volcani Centre in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Speaking at the short ceremony, Hon. Joseph Boahen Aidoo emphasised the importance of finding a lasting remedy to the disease in a timely manner. Failure to do so poses a major challenge to the survival of the cocoa sector.
He cited the example of witches bloom which ravaged major cocoa farms in Brazil and
resulted in the pioneer of cocoa production now becoming a net importer of cocoa from other countries.
Hon. Aidoo was of the view that given the data and expertise of CRIG and the capacity of the Volcani Centre, this collaboration will go a long way to help Ghanaian cocoa farmers and the cocoa industry in general.
On his part, Professor Eli Fenerman said the Centre has collaborated with a lot of institutions to find solutions to problems in agriculture and he believes this collaboration will definitely help improve cocoa productivity in order to sustain the chocolate industry which he describes as fan.
Although top of the list, the collaboration between COCOBOD and the Volcani Centre goes beyond the search for a remedy to CSSVD and an effective control of the disease vector. The scientists will join forces and research ways of optimizing cocoa nutrition, irrigation and pollination as well as improving cocoa seedling health and resilience via biochar solutions in nurseries and during planting;
They will focus some attention on creating integrated pest management solutions for the control of pests, particularly, pathogen-carrying pests as well as the pathogens they carry. The scientists will develop climate and pest resilient cocoa strains with favourable flavouring and health profiles.
Other subjects of mutual interest such as integrated shade/irrigation solutions, post-harvest processing and storage, reduction of post-harvest loses also form part of the collaboration.