According to the Ghana Cocoa Board’s (COCOBOD) Chief Executive, Hon Joseph Boahen Aidoo, COCOBOD will soon start returning newly rehabilitated cocoa farms to their owners. This news follows the claimed success of The National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme (NCRP), which aimed to cure cocoa farms of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Viral Disease (CSSVD) and introduce several measures to protect and improve the farms for future generations.

The NCRP was conceived by COCOBOD and officially launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2020 as an emergency response to the devastating spread of CSSVD.

The decision to begin returning the newly rehabilitated farms to their beneficiaries comes after a two-day inspection conducted across farms and cocoa communities in the Western North Region by Mr Aidoo. The announcement was made after touring a 145.8 hectare rehabilitated cocoa farm at Kumikrom in the Bekwai District.

On his tour, Mr Aidoo said it was time for the early beneficiaries of the rehabilitation programme to reclaim care of their farms, but cautioned them to strictly adhere to good agroforestry and agronomic practices. Adopting these better ways to manage the farms will ensure that they operate at optimum capacity and are not detrimental to the environment.

Beyond replacing CSSVD diseased crops with healthy ones, the programme also introduced higher-yielding cocoa varieties that were more disease-tolerant and early bearing. Plantains and grains were also planted to help shade the growing cocoa trees as well as ensure better food security for the farming families.

During the two-year-long process, the tenant farmers and landowners involved were paid GH₵1000 per hectare as compensation. COCOBOD also handled the costs of activities and labour on the farms over the period of rehabilitation. Ghana’s Cocoa Board introduced the drastic measures in response to the catastrophic damage caused by CSSVD across the Western North Region. One survey from 2017 found that nationally, 315,886 hectares out of 1.9 million hectares of the cocoa farm had been lost to the swollen shoot virus, leading COCOBOD to intervene with the NCRP.

The results have been largely well-received by agriculture experts, and some are now urging the government to scale the initiative to the rest of Ghana’s cocoa-producing regions. The news is indeed promising and has many farmers excited to reclaim the management of their cocoa farms. The ongoing upkeep of the farms and continuation of optimal farming practices are key to the programme’s overall success, beyond stopping the spread of CSSVD. It is, therefore, crucial that the farmers return to working on their land with the necessary knowledge and training required to maintain the condition of the farm.

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