Taking the pain out of pruning
It’s not news that most cocoa farmers in West Africa struggle to make a living income. And we know that this has a knock-on impact on things like deforestation as farmers are forced to encroach on forest land in search of fertile soil.
Often cocoa yields can be improved through simple techniques like pruning, but many cocoa farmers don’t feel confident enough to do this because they worry they will damage their crop and lose their livelihood altogether. Peer pressure also plays a part, as this scepticism spreads from farm to farm.
The One Farmer, One Acre programme is helping to overcome these barriers in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Rather than attempt to train up large groups of farmers on demo plots, we arrange for young adults within the community to prune an acre of cocoa for a farmer, with the labour costs covered by us and our partner Mondelēz.
This helps farmers to see the tangible benefits pruning can have on their own farm so they feel more confident to prune the rest of their trees themselves, or to employ the pruning teams to do so for them in the future. Not only does this increase farmers’ yields, it also creates employment opportunities for the next generation.
Over 7,400 farmers have taken part in Ghana since 2018. Each typically saw an increase in yield of 350 – 520kg per hectare, a decline in disease in their crops, and significant savings on insecticides. Altogether, farmers found themselves about 5,190 Ghc (approximately £700) better off after three months.
Paul Namuck is a 60-year-old farmer in Ghana who has been growing cocoa on his 4 hectares of land for the past 15 years. After the first visit from the pruning team, he was worried that his farm had been damaged, but he was soon convinced. “I was shocked by the results,” he says after he increased his yield by four bags a year and increased his income by almost 20%, as well as spending less money on insecticides and losing less of his crop to black pod disease. He now pays the youth team to prune his trees regularly and is an advocate for pruning in his local community.