A Cocoa Target Learning Platform to help experts and farmers share knowledge on planting materials for increased productivity has been held at Mankranso in the Ahafo Ano South-West District of the Ashanti Region.
It aimed at exposing the participating farmers to best practices and innovations in the use of planting materials, which could help sustain their livelihood.
The University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Kokoo Pa Farmers Association, a farmer-based organization, and KIT Royal Tropical Institute facilitated the programme.
It was on the theme: “Planting Materials: Farmers’ Perception, Challenges, Opportunities and Innovations.”
Participants were from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Forestry Commission, Bioversity International and Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Professor Elvis Asare-Bediako, the Vice-Chancellor of UENR, in an address at the opening session, said the training adopted an ‘innovations from below’ approach to enable the farmers to improve their practices based on their existing knowledge.
He explained that a variety of innovations were considered, ranging from seed preservation, producing planting materials, crop protection to the survival of planting materials.
The Vice-Chancellor said studies had shown that some key developments affecting planting material production, access and usage included climate change, which had resulted in erratic rainfall and high temperatures, as well as compact soils and loss of soil fertility.
Others pertained to the loss of forest cover, excessive use of agro-chemicals, invasion of pests, diseases and weeds, and also shift in farming methods and practices, resulting in loss of planting materials and high mortality rates.
Prof Asare-Bediako advised the farmers to take a keen interest in creating learning platforms to foster the exchange of ideas, technology transfer and the adoption of acceptable practices.
He also entreated them to open up and embrace new ideas to enhance efficiency in their work.
Dr Atta Ofori, a research scientist and breeder at the CRIG, said the Ghana Cocoa Board, through the Institute, had invested a lot in cocoa seed development and seedling nurseries.
This, he noted, was to ensure the availability of quality planting materials for farmers, stressing that hybrid seeds had a better survival rate than those open-pollinated seeds from farmers’ plots.
Additionally, hybrid varieties had an early bearing rate and high yield, reaching peak yields by the eighth year, and also were more resistant to cocoa diseases and pests than the early ‘Amelonado’ introductions by the late Tetteh Quarshie.
Mr Fred Amponsah, Chief Executive of ‘Kokoo Pa’, said in an interview that the participating farmers were drawn from Nsuta-Nyamebekyere, Mmoroben and Aponoaponoso within the Mankranso Cocoa District.
Dr Jacob Ulzen, a Resource Person of Bioversity International, a global research-for-development organization, speaking on the objectives of the ‘Cocoa Target Project’, said it sought to accelerate access to planting materials for cocoa farmers in Ghana.