As cocoa demand is increasing globally, cocoa producers are faced with declining yields due to declining soil fertility, climate change, and diseases that threaten the cocoa supply chains.
The ‘Map to the future (M2F)’ project has provided a data-led scientific approach that small-holder cocoa farmers in Ghana can use to combine standard survey data with soil data from the specific area. This can be used to improve the health of the soil which leads to greater productivity.
Ghana is the second largest cocoa producer in the world, producing 883,652 metric tonnes which supports the lives of over 700,000 farmers in the country, but the farming practices are under-developed with most of them growing the crop in direct sunlight, and with out the use of fertilizer.
Because of this, over time, the soil becomes depleted of nutrients, which in turn, reduces yields. Numbers show that average cocoa yields in Ghana are far below their potential if better practices were followed.
The two components that determine the yield potential are the static soil properties, such as the elements that make up the soil and the resulting PH value, and secondly the elements that the farmer can change, such as adding nutrients back in through the use of fertiliser.
The next step to improving output, therefore, is for agronomists to identify what the limiting factors are at each site and to put an action plan in place for the farmer.
It is this specific lack of available, actionable information on soil physical and chemical properties that has complicated or limited opportunities for small-area farmers to both identify the best soils for optimal cocoa production and improve soil health through appropriate soil management practices.
Acquiring accurate soil information is a critical first step needed to improve farm productivity, but information alone is not sufficient to ensure that appropriate management practices are implemented.
Therefore, the Data Innovation Fund (DIF) of the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building III (TFSCB-III) supported a project ‘Map to the Future (M2F): Integrating soil mapping into cocoa farm development plans in Ghana‘ which is led by Grameen Foundation USA (Grameen).
The project produced a framework for how site-specific soil information may be used to help farmers better manage their soils and consisted of three main steps:
- Acquire accurate site-specific soil data (using FarmGrow and LandPKS apps). Seventy-five farms were assessed, with three data collection sites per farm, resulting in 225 soil sites.
- Link existing soil map data at the site location.
- Develop crop-specific soil recommendations based on site-specific and soil map data based on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Agro-Ecological Zone (AEZ) soil suitability methodology.
The full report can be found here.