In a bid to boost Ghana’s cocoa production, the government introduced the Hand Pollination Programme in 2017, an artificial process where the pollen is taken from the flower on the same tree or nearby trees and attached to or dropped on the stigma leading to cross-pollination. The process allows many flowers to be pollinated a just one day, resulting in massive fertilisation and cherrelle development.
Over the years, many Ghanaian cocoa farmers have complained about low crop yields and its resultant effects on their financial fortunes as such the introduction of such novelty has come as good news to cocoa farmers in the country.
While presenting the mid-year Budget Review and Economic Planning statement to Parliament on Monday, July 31, 2017, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, said it was the objective of the government to reverse the “declining trend and to increase production to more than one million tonnes per annum within the next four years.”
As artificial means are used to supplement natural pollination, the programme has been successful over the years with cocoa farmers doubling their yields since its inception.
However, the programme faces danger as some cocoa farmers in the Brong Ahafo Region have already identified some threats to farms and are calling on the government to, as a matter of urgency, intervene for prompt remedy.
Bechem in Brong Ahafo Region
Growing up as a son of a cocoa farmer, I saw my father and many other cocoa farmers rely on nature to determine their cocoa yields. This sole reliance on nature, I believe, has resulted in declining yields over the years.
The introduction of the Hand Pollination Programme by the government to enhance pollination and therefore cherrelle and pod formation was not only welcoming news but timely for those of us whose livelihood depended on and are still linked to cocoa farming.
It is in view of this that I spent my Christmas break visiting some cocoa farms in the Brong Ahafo Region in my quest to be part of the success story chalked by the Hand Pollination exercise.
My interactions with many farmers during the visit revealed a distressful phenomenon in the use of one of the products supplied them for flower enhancing and formation chemical known as Banzar.
Ironically, instead of flower production, flowers occurring naturally got withered or burnt after its use.
42-year-old cocoa farmer, Edward Kwasi Batea, who owns a two-acre cocoa farm located at Nhyiam, a village in Bechem District of Brong Ahafo Region, was full of praise for the government for introducing the Hand Pollination Programme.
He admitted the programme has increased his yield in the past two years after his farm was pollinated. However during the just ended 2018 crop season, after he sprayed the chemical to enhance flowering and podding, most of the flowers rather withered after 10 days of spraying.
Mr Batea shared his story during an interview: “My farm was part of the farms which benefitted from the Pollination exercise in 2017 when it was first introduced. Before the Pollination exercise way back in 2015-2016, I harvested about 6-7 bags but in 2017 when my farm was pollinated I had more than 11 bags which looked like magic to me”.
He added: “In 2018 the pollination was done but as usual Government advised us to buy fertilizer to support flower production and also supplied us with the Chemical Banzar. To my dismay, a few days after spraying the Banzar, I realized even the flowers that had come naturally started to wither and drop. The pods too had burns and turned black. I asked other cocoa farmers around and they all complained of the same thing. I am appealing to Government to investigate and change this Banzar chemical to avert catastrophe.”
Messer Edward Kwasi Batea points to burnt pods after spraying Banzar chemical
Many other farmers including, Opanin Emmanuel Kwame Akpalu, who also has his farm at Nhyiam-Bechem told the same story.
“Cocoa we know is a good resource as such the introduction of the hand Pollination exercise brought relief to us the farmers which will go a long way to affect the nation positively. We are aware there are other chemicals in the market that can produce more flowers after the pollination. The government should, therefore, arrange to supply suitable and efficient products to support the good works already being done. We know there are very good Agro-chemicals on the market which does the magic of producing more flowers and retaining them as well but as farmers, we cannot promote any company’s product as such we leave it to Government/Cocobod to follow up to know the chemical product that will be good for us”.
Photo: Opanin Kwame Akpalu praises Government for introducing the hand Pollination exercise which has increased his yield.
Mr Allotey Boateng who also owns a 6 Acre cocoa farm located at Yamfo in Bechem also expressed similar sentiments:
“As for me, I believe that farming is a business so I buy chemicals myself which is not always enough considering the size of my farm. The hand Pollination has helped us to get more yield but the Banzar affected us a lot in 2018. We thank the Government for introducing the Hand pollination exercise but I believe they can invest more in the program by supplying us with the right chemicals that will give more flowers and retain them as well," he also pleaded.
Photo: Messre Allotey Boateng also admitted to the double yield as a result of the hand Pollination but called on Government to replace the Banzar chemical to drive the course.
Ghana is one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa and the country depends heavily on cocoa for its foreign exchange earnings as well as for the provision of employment opportunities for a large number of its population.
As such a program such as the Hand Pollination I believe should be safeguarded with every inch of the country’s resources to promote/boost our cocoa production.