The Cocoa farms of Ghana’s Western North Region have been the subject of rehabilitation under the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme (NCRP). These regions have been affected by the swollen shoot disease, which has had devastating effects on the country’s prime crop.

Approximately 11% of Cocoa farms in the region, 51,537 hectares out of 487,386, have been rehabilitated under the programme so far. The NCRP was launched in 2017 by Ghana’s Cocoa regulator COCOBOD and is financially supported by the African Development Bank (AFDB). One of the objectives of the programme is to treat farms affected by the virus and replant infected Cocoa plants with disease-tolerant and early-bearing, high-yielding varieties.

Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, toured some of the rehabilitated farms in the Western North Region to assess progress.

In 2017, when we took over, we thought it wise to come up with measures to save the situation, leading to the rehabilitation programme to give hope to our farmers and to improve income, among others

Joseph Boahen Aidoo, CEO COCOBOD

As part of the programme, compensation is also to be paid to participating farmers and landowners for up to two years after the plantation.

One area where significant progress was observed is in the planting of shade trees, where economic trees are interspersed across the Cocoa farms to provide shade for Cocoa trees. The benefits of planting the economic trees are expected to carry forward to provide improved income for generations to come. Farmers have therefore been urged to not only care for their Cocoa crops but also to ensure the proper planting and treatment of their economic trees.

While the planting of shade trees is not an uncommon practice in the Cocoa industry, Ghanaian farmers have previously been hesitant to adopt the technique. One study conducted by the Department of Agroforestry-College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, looked into the farmer’s views on shade trees.

The study found that out of the 91 farmers involved, only 9 of them thought that their Cocoa trees and pods were healthier with the addition of shade trees. Furthermore, when asked for their reasons for removing shade trees, 39 of the 91 farmers believed that less shade gave a higher yield.

The goal of the NCRP programme is to develop better Cocoa growing conditions and practices for generations to come. It is therefore not only necessary to replace diseased crops, but to also educate farmers on best practices to get the most out of their farms. For example, Mr Aidoo advised against planting too many yuca in the farms, as they would compete with the Cocoa trees for water and nutrients. He also spoke of plans to introduce irrigation technology that would allow continuous farming through the dry seasons, enabling farmers to maximise their yield. 

Western North Region Cocoa farmers have seen continuous drops in Cocoa production as a result of the swollen shoot disease and if left untreated, the affected trees could die off completely. In response, COCOBOD initiated the rehabilitation programme as a matter of urgency, and it is encouraging to see that improvements are already being reported. Although we expect it to be a long process, it could lay the groundwork for future generations to prosper.

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