Fifty thousand cocoa farmers in West Africa are accessing crop protection advice and crop spraying services through the Africa Cocoa Initiative.
A preliminary study by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), one year into its five-year Africa Cocoa Initiative, has found that the majority (70%) of participating farmers have been able to increase their cocoa yields by an average of 45%. Educating farmers about how best to tackle the threat of pests and diseases is a major focus of the WCF initiative, which aims to double productivity and income levels for 100,000 cocoa farmers in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. Currently, 30% of these countries’ cocoa crop is lost to pests and disease.
Access to authorised crop protection products has been identified as a major challenge to cocoa production in the region. The Initiative has therefore funded training for selected farmers as Spray Service Providers (SSPs), who help the wider farming community by identifying pests, providing advice on their management and, when needed, applying crop protection products. Working with plant science organisation CropLife Africa Middle East, the Initiative has trained more than 3000 SSPs since its launch in 2013, who in turn have used their knowledge and skills to support 50,000 cocoa producers.
Scaling out the SSP approach to new cocoa growing regions now represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the West African initiative. Reasons for optimism, however, include the increasing number of certification projects being implemented by organisations such as UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade, and the high level of activity among NGOs in helping cocoa communities to take advantage of these. Certification schemes demand that the end product, chocolate, is produced to high environmental, social and agricultural standards, and the SSP scheme complements this work well. In Ghana, for example, the SSPs have helped farmers to meet their ‘Good Agricultural Practice’ standard, an essential component of achieving UTZ ‘Sustainable Farm’ accreditation.
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