Just after six years of introducing the extensively known economic commodity to Northern Ghana, Apamzebilla Azurago Alituba says it has been a tough road seeking ways to keep his father’s mark of growing cocoa.
At a very young age decades ago, he saw his father toiled to break a decisive chain of what many residents described as inconceivable – growing of cocoa in the Upper East Region.
The idea of continuing from where the father had left off after his demise was difficult. It was even more rambling deciding where and how to begin.
An opportunity presented itself, probably, by God’s own will, when Alituba’s cousin Mahama Awelimbil died in Kumasi in 2014 and he had to go for the funeral.
Awelimbil’s death came with painful grief but also opened a considerable opportunity for Alituba’s journey to renew his years thought business he didn’t know how to begin.
His father, Alafia Akurugu Azurago planted about 37 cocoa trees he had also brought from the southern part of the country but the trees couldn’t survive before he passed on. The father died in the early 70s but that Mark of growing cocoa has always been around with 63-year-old Alituba.
Today, he has two-acre of cocoa farms in the Bawku West District of the Upper East Region where climatic conditions do not favour productive growth of the crop.
Cocoa is a critical cash crop for much of West Africa, particularly Ghana. It is sensitive to drought conditions and very low rainfall could negatively impact their growth. It also does well in humid tropical climates with regular rains and short dry season. Attempting to grow the crop in an environment such as what pertains in the Upper East Region was virtually unheard of.
However that is what the 63-year-old has committed to do, and he is determined to succeed or die trying. Alituba has spent over GHS10,000 since he started growing the cash crop six years ago. Unfortunately, he has harvested only 2 bags of cocoa beans last year from the two acres of land.
But Ghana’s cocoa yield averages at 500kg per hectare. Thus, just about 3.2 bags per acre. Hi-tech farmers can achieve 8-16 bags per acre. These are dependent on the age of the tree, soil fertility as well as agronomy practices by the farmer.
Experts say: “if the land is virgin with good properties and rains, he can get more since it’s a first-generation land, contrary to dominant generation 2 soils across the cocoa belt.”
Persistence, hard work and self-determination are what is keeping Alituba going.
“I believe the harvest could have been higher but for some challenges.”
He says poverty, among other things, is pushing him to go the extra mile to grow the cocoa.
“I am doing all this because of poverty and lack of payable work.” He says.
Alituba is also being motivated by the fact that many used to tell him there is no cocoa in his region. That, he says, is an inspiring message for him to work harder.
Alituba’s challenges range from lack of water to fertilizer. He relies on a dug-out he created on the farm to irrigate his crops.
Well, that is a rare initiative by Apamzebilla Azurago Alituba of Zebilla whose concern about the sustenance of his crops is not the climate alone but also stray animals.
He is compelled to spend the night on the farm in order to ward off grazing animals which are destroying his cocoa trees.
Alituba wants to expand his farm to become one of the best cocoa farmers in the country.
Whether he can overcome the harsh climate to reach that dream remains a hurdle he must clear.