Cocoasoils Programme, a public-private consortium, seeking to address the declining productivity in cocoa and to improve the livelihoods of farmers, has launched a training manual to deepen scientific knowledge of stakeholders in the sector.
The user-friendly document is to help extension officers and field staff to pass on the latest knowledge in cocoa production to farmers in a language they understand.
It aims to introduce the importance of nutrient supply through fertilizer application in cocoa farms and the need to implement good agricultural practices to maximize cocoa yield and income.
Dr Amos Quaye, a Research Scientist at the Soil Science Division of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), unveiling the document in Fumesua in the Ejisu Municipality, said there was the need to embrace new knowledge in cocoa production.
Fertilizer application, he said, was not the single solution to problems encountered in cocoa production and that the document demonstrated how to manage cocoa farms to increase productivity by around 30 per cent.
The manual, titled: “Managing Soils for Increased Productivity and Decreased Deforestation in Cocoa,” provided up-to-date recommendations on the year-round management operations to keep productivity at a maximum.
It provides four main themes – addressing the questions of productivity, deforestation, protection of the environment and the health of cocoa producers.
Under good agricultural practices, it said adhering to correct pruning, timely weeding, shade tree management, sanitary pruning and other measures would help improve yield.
On integrated management of pests and cocoa diseases, the manual shows how to apply appropriate pest and disease management to increase the productivity of a cocoa farm, and how to protect the farmer and his family from any negative impact of the use and application of pesticides.
Dr Quaye, who is the Core Trial Manager of the Cocoasoils Programme, said the document “establishes that the productivity of cocoa farms can be increased without expanding the area planted with cocoa and without clearing the forest to set up new cocoa plantations.”
Mr Reginald Ofori Kyere, the Communications Officer of the Cocoasoils Programme, which is being funded by Norway and led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands, said the document would help expand the scope of knowledge of extension officers and field staff.
Highlighting the background, he said, the manual was developed with input from the Programme’s public and private sector partners by considering the key capacity needs of cocoa farmers in Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria.
The topics relate to assessing cocoa farm productivity, introduction to increased farm productivity without deforestation, pruning to improve soil fertility, efficient use of soil nutrients, safe handling of pesticides and use of organic matter to improve soil fertility.
Present at the ceremony were representatives of the private partners – Kuapa Kokoo, Mondelez, Rockwinds, Barry Callebaut, Yara and Nestle.
The Cocoa Research Institute, which is the Programme’s focal research partner in Ghana, the Cocoa Health and Extension Division of COCOBOD, Forestry Commission and Cocoa and Forests Initiative, were also represented at the event.