A rigorous adherence to the Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEP) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), particularly, pruning, fertilizing and hand pollination will guarantee a bountiful cocoa harvest, says the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Hon. Joseph Boahen Aidoo.
These programmes, which also include, irrigation, extension services, as well as, disease and pest control, ensure harvests of not less than 20 bags of cocoa per acre of cocoa farm. This, according to the COCOBOD boss, is enough to lift any cocoa farmer with a 5-acre farm out of poverty.
Hon. Aidoo made this statement when he held an interactive meeting with the cocoa farmer corporative of Bibiani, in the Bono Ahafo Region, on the first day of his week-long tour of cocoa farms across the country. The corporative, which has about four dozen members, was led by the Kontihene of the area, Nana Kontihene Asiama. Last year the area produced 60 thousand tons of cocoa.
“A good harvest starts with the proper preparation of the cocoa farm”, Hon. Aidoo pointed out. “Pruning, which essentially is the careful cutting of excess brunches of cocoa trees, is very important at this stage. It allows sunlight to shine through the canopy onto the ground. Pruned plants also grow more flowers as the plants turn to devote a lot more of their nutrients to flowering and fruit bearing.”
When the trees begin to flower, farmers are expected to apply the right kind of fertilizer in the right quantities to boost the flowering process, hereafter, it will be time for pollination.
The COCOBOD Chief Executive encouraged farmers to hire some farm labourers, have the cocoa extension officers train them on how to hand pollinate and have them work on the farm to pollinate each flower to maximise yields.
He went on to advise them to stop the use of weedicides; to grow other crops on the farm, which are helpful to the cocoa trees and to again grow large trees to provide shade for the cocoa. He told the farmers to ensure proper disease and pest control, and to particularly be on the lookout for the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD).
COCOBOD with the support of the government, has introduced a programme to cut down every cocoa tree infected with CSSVD. Under the programme, COCOBOD is bearing the cost of cutting down the farms, replanting and providing compensation of GH₵ 1000 per hector to both affected farmers and their landowners.
Speaking on behalf of the member of the corporative, Nana Kontihene Asiama, expressed profound gratitude to the president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, Hon. Aidoo and the current Management of COCOBOD for all the cocoa programmes, interventions and extension services, which according to him has improved substantially from what they experienced from the previous government.
The COCOBOD Chief Executive is being accompanied by the Deputy Chief Executive of Operations at COCOBOD, Dr Emmanuel Opoku, as well, as Directors and Research Scientists from COCOBOD. They were later joined by the 2018 National Best Cocoa Farmer, Mr Charles Gyamfi, to inspect some farms.
The tour is aimed at assessing the level of farmer participation in the various farm productivity enhancement programmes implemented by COCOBOD; it is also to gathering first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing farmers at different parts of the cocoa producing areas; and to hold farmer rallies to interact with farmers.