Mr. Ebenezer Agyin, Ashanti Regional Manager, Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of the COCOBOD, has underscored the need for cocoa farmers to regularly weed their farms, especially when the rains set in, to achieve the objectives of the Productivity Enhancement Projects (PEPs).
The PEPs, a project introduced by the COCOBOD, seeks to roll out a set of measures that will improve productivity per hectare, and increase cocoa production levels above one million tonnes per year.
After a field visit in the Nyinahin Cocoa District, Mr. Agyin observed that most farms were engulfed by weeds, and with onset of the rains, if the farms there were not cleared speedily, they may completely take over cash crops, a situation which would not enhance productivity.
He said, 'This will mar the objectives of the PEPs which includes pruning, cocoa rehabilitation, and pollination among others.'
The COCOBOD as part of the project has been providing farmers with hybrid plantain suckers and economic shade trees to intercrop on the cocoa farms.
According to Mr Agyin, the Ashanti Region had earmarked to distribute over seven million hybrid cocoa seedlings in 2023 for various categories of farms such as the rehabilitated farms, farms established two years ago (2021/2022) that had to be refilled due to dead seedlings as well as farmers who had unfortunately encountered wild bush fires, to revamp and reestablish their farms again.
Again, farmers undertaking new cultivation were receiving hybrid seeds for establishment.
Mr Agyin as part of the visit inspected some reestablished cocoa farms and also farmers undertaking new cocoa establishments, where he observed that most of the farmers were planting under the supervision of the Rehabilitation Assistants.
He also visited a nursery site at Antwi-Agyei Nkwanta where about 84,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings were being nursed for distribution to farmers.
Mr. Bernard Amanor, District Cocoa Officer at Nyinahin, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the district intended to rehabilitate 205 hectares under the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme in 2023, adding that, 115 hectares had already been done.
The Nyinahin Cocoa District had also distributed 333,570 hybrid cocoa seedlings and 30,000 plantain seedlings to farmers.
Mr Amanor said the only challenge had been inadequate labour on the farms and pledged that the district would strategise to increase the labour force to speed up the planting processes.
Mr Kwasi Agyei, a cocoa farmer who owns 0.4 hectares of farm at Nsuontem, told the GNA that COCOBOD's intercropping programme had benefited him immensely.
He said proceeds from the sale of plantains on his farm was giving him extra income as an alternative livelihood until the cocoa pods were matured enough for harvesting.
Mr Agyei said his farm was in good shape because of regular weeding of the farm and other farm maintenance practices and praised officials of COCOBOD for their support through their extension services.
Source: Ghana News Agency