Converging farmers' and scientists' perspectives on researchable constraints on organic cocoa production in Ghana: Results of a diagnostic study

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Abstract

A diagnostic study was conducted to identify the major constraints on organic cocoa production at Brong-Densuso and surrounding communities in the Suhum-Kraboa-Coaltar District, Eastern Region, Ghana. The study followed a technographic study that highlighted cocoa as a public crop requiring broad techno-social innovations, In the technographic study, problems identified included low yields, persistent pest management constraints and a low adoption rate of technologies developed by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana. The diagnostic study adopted a Participatory Learning and Action Research approach to set up and implement fieldwork with relevant stakeholders leading to problem identification, prioritization, and collective design of an action plan (research agenda). Cocoa farmers within the study area are conscious of the environmental problems associated with the use of inorganic pesticides and the high cost of using them. Hence, they produce cocoa without applying any pesticides. Quite recently, however, their association with an organic marketing company led to a search for non-chemical pest and disease control measures and for ways to certify their cocoa beans as organic. A misconception as to what species of cocoa pests constitute 'capsids' was settled between farmers and scientists using a cage experiment on capsid damage. The farmers became convinced that the Cocoa Mosquito (Helopeltis spp.) (Hemiptera: Miridae), which they had previously considered an important pest, was a capsid species that caused little or no damage to the beans inside the pods. After this clarification, damage caused by the Brown Capsid (Sahlbergella singularis; Hemiptera: Miridae) and the Black Capsid (Distantiella theobroma; Hemiptera: Miridae) emerged as the most serious production constraint, followed by Black Pod disease (caused by Phytophtora palmivora). The malfunctioning of tenure agreements and the mistrust between landlords, who are mainly absentee farmers, and their caretaker cocoa farmers pose a serious threat to pest management innovations, especially where pruning to control Black Pod disease and uprooting trees infected with Swollen Shoot disease are concerned. The key stakeholders involved in the study agreed on three innovative (organic) capsid control methods for further research: the use of sex pheromone traps, crude aqueous neem (Azadirachta indica) seed extracts, and the use of ant (Oecophylla longinoda) colonies as biological control agents, the latter being proposed by farmers, The paper reflects on the diagnostic study as a continuous process in response to a continually changing context even beyond the end of the diagnostic research phase.

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Ayenor, G. K., Röling, N. G., Padi, B., Van Huis, A., Obeng-Ofori, D., & Atengdem, P. B. (2004). Converging farmers’ and scientists’ perspectives on researchable constraints on organic cocoa production in Ghana: Results of a diagnostic study. NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 52(3–4), 261–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1573-5214(04)80017-4

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