Agricultural experts have identified poor soil fertility as the most critical factor that has contributed to a decline in productivity in cocoa in Ghana and the sub-region as a whole.
Also, the knowledge gap on good crop nutrition and proper management of cocoa trees is fast militating against productivity.
In a move to address the challenge, Cocoasoils Programme, an internationally recognised group in promoting sustainable intensification of cocoa production while avoiding deforestation in West Africa, has built the capacities of 27 cocoa extension agents from Cargill in a five-day training workshop.
The capacity building was organised by Cocoasoils programme in Sefwi Bekwai in the Western North region on “managing soils fertility for improved productivity and decreased deforestation.”
Cocoasoils is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Wageningen University & Research and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH).
The extension agents were selected from Bibiani, Asawinso, Wiawso, Bekwai, Anwiaso, Nyinahin, Asempaneye, Debiso, and Essam in the Sefwi-Wiawso Municipal District in the Western North Region.
It was aimed among others to train the extension agents on Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) for increased productivity of cocoa farms and improved livelihood for cocoa farmers.
Basically, It was meant to build the capacity of the extension agents to pass on the latest knowledge in ISFM and GAPS to cocoa farmers across the country.
The extension officers were trained in composting, integrated pest and disease management, pruning, fertilizer application, assessing cocoa farm productivity and the various ways to bring the organic matter to the farm.
The ISFM is a stepwise approach that combines improved planting materials, canopy cover management and pest/disease control with targeted fertilizer application to increase cocoa complemented by (re)-use of locally available (organic) nutrient sources, appropriate intercropping and shade trees to increase the fertility and subsequently the productivity of cocoa farms.
The project coordinator for Cocoasoils, Dr Richard Asare, said his outfit was working with scientists from public and private sector partners to develop innovative technologies on ISFM and GAPs.
He said the programme will be using the extension channels of private sector partners like Olam, Mondelez, Cargill, Kuapa Kokoo, Tulip Cocoa, Olatunde International, Sucden, and Rockwinds to disseminate the technologies that will be generated for farmers in Ghana, Cameroun, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria.
In Ghana, the project has trained 139 extension agents from Kuapa Kokoo, Cargill, Mondelez, Olam and Rockwinds on ISFM and GAPS.
These extension agents have gone on to train 2,728 cocoa farmers across the country on the best practices to improve the productivity of the farms without moving into the forest to search for fertile lands.
The project has trained a total of 486 extension agents of private partners and 63253 cocoa farmers in Ghana, Cameroun, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria.