Joseph Boahen Aidoo, CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), has sounded the alarm on a significant threat to the country’s cocoa production: the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD).
Mr Aidoo revealed that Ghana has lost over 500,000 hectares of cocoa farms to this devastating disease, posing a grave challenge to the nation’s cocoa sector.
Speaking at a panel discussion during a partnership meeting of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) in Amsterdam, Mr Aidoo shed light on the multifaceted challenges confronting cocoa production in Ghana. Alongside CSSVD, he emphasized the detrimental impacts of illegal mining and climate change, which compound the decline in cocoa productivity and jeopardize the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.
Mr Aidoo underscored the adverse effects of illegal mining on cocoa cultivation, citing deforestation, soil degradation, and water pollution as significant concerns. These environmental consequences directly impede the growth of cocoa trees and exacerbate the spread of CSSVD, further intensifying the crisis.
The CEO stressed the importance of securing sustainable incomes for cocoa farmers, underscoring the Living Income Differential and the recent significant hikes in Ghana’s Producer Price for cocoa farmers as crucial advancements in this regard.
Mr Aidoo noted that there is a need for a collective commitment across the industry to prioritise the sustainable incomes of cocoa farmers, backed by concrete action to ensure its realisation.
Yves Brahima Koné, the director general of Conseil du Café Cacao, urged the industry to show immediate commitment to addressing the issue, emphasising that failure to do so could result in the industry succumbing to these challenges.
Climate Change Exacerbates The Situation
Climate change exacerbates the situation, with rising temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns, and prolonged droughts negatively impacting cocoa tree health and productivity. Cocoa trees are particularly sensitive to environmental fluctuations, making them susceptible to diseases like CSSVD and reducing yield outputs.
To combat the CSSVD challenge, COCOBOD initiated the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme in 2018. This comprehensive initiative aims to halt the spread of the disease, rejuvenate unproductive cocoa farms, and enhance the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.
The programme entails identifying diseased farms, removing affected trees, replanting with disease-resistant cocoa varieties, compensating affected farmers, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
Despite these efforts, the battle against CSSVD remains ongoing, requiring continuous vigilance and collaborative action from government agencies, cocoa stakeholders, and international partners. Strengthening disease surveillance, investing in research and development for disease-resistant cocoa varieties, and implementing robust agricultural extension services are crucial steps in safeguarding Ghana’s cocoa sector against future threats.
Moreover, addressing the root causes of illegal mining and mitigating the impacts of climate change are essential for ensuring the long-term sustainability of cocoa production in Ghana. By prioritizing environmental conservation, sustainable land management, and climate-resilient farming practices, Ghana can fortify its cocoa industry and secure the livelihoods of millions of cocoa farmers who depend on this vital cash crop.