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The National Cocoa Diseases and Pests Control: achievements and challenges

1.0 INTRODUCTION
Cocoa originated from the lower Amazon of Brazil and was brought to Ghana from Fernando Po in 1879 and from Sao Tome in the 1880’s. The first recorded export of beans from Ghana was in 1891 and since then, cocoa has been the main export crop and a major source of foreign exchange and domestic income earner. Until 1977, and for 66 years (1910 to 1977), Ghana was the world’s leading producer of cocoa with the market shares ranging from 30-40%. Records indicate that production increased from a level of 36.3 MT in 1891 to an all time peak of about 557,000 MT in 1964/65 giving Ghana a global output share of about 33% and the leading cocoa producer. Thereafter, production continued to drop and reached the lowest level of 158,956.00 MT in 1983/84, which constituted about 9% of world’s production. Consequently, Ghana lost her position as the world’s number one producer.

As part of efforts to arrest the decline in cocoa production, the Government of Ghana through Cocoa Board initiated a National Cocoa Diseases and Pest Control (CODAPEC) programme, popularly known as “Mass Spraying” to assist all cocoa farmers in the country to combat the Capsid/Mirid and the Black Pod disease. Other objectives were to train farmers and technical personnel on the cultural and chemical methods of pests and diseases control, educate and train local sprayers on safe pesticides usage, help put more money in the pockets of farmers and create jobs for the unemployed youth in the rural communities.

2.0 COVERAGE OF THE CODAPEC PROGRAMME
The CODAPEC programme was introduced in 2001/02 cocoa season. Currently, 72 political districts covering all the cocoa growing areas are benefiting from the programme; 21districts from the black pod disease only, 35 districts from mirids only and 16 from both programmes. District Task Forces (DTF) and Local Task Forces (LTF), have been formed in each operational district and unit centre, respectively. The DTF represents the Project Management at the District level and is in charge of Gang recruitment, storage and distribution of inputs and logistics to the Gang Areas, and general supervision. The LTF on the other hand, represents the Project Management at the Society (village) level and is responsible for the planning and execution of the programme at the local level.

The black pod control programme covers all cocoa districts in the Volta, Brong Ahafo and parts of Western, Ashanti and Eastern Regions. Spraying against mirids on the other hand covers the Central, Eastern and parts of Western and Ashanti Regions. Each farm is sprayed three times between June and October in the case of black pod and twice between August and December in case of mirids. Spraying gangs are established in each unit centre. Each gang of ten (in case of black pod programme) and six (in case of mirid programme) has a supervisor who is responsible for the general supervision of the programme at the unit level. Attached to every 20 Gangs is a Mechanic responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the spraying machines. Farmers, the main and direct beneficiaries, are responsible for the cultural practices (brushing, pruning, shade management and removal of all black and other diseased pods), provision of water for spraying and also monitoring of spraying on the farm to ensure proper and satisfactory spraying.

3.0 TRAINING
In each season, the programme starts with the training of farmers, Gang supervisors and Mechanics by the Project Coordinators and resource persons from CRIG. The trainees are taken through the appropriate methods of pesticide application with emphasis on the dosages of the various pesticides, dangers of exposure to pesticides, importance of the use of protective clothing, handling and minor repairs of spraying machines, observance of personal hygiene, environmental safety issues, first aid, and techniques of application, handling and disposal of empty containers. The roles and responsibilities of stakeholders are also explained during each training exercise.

Eight fungicide types, Ridomil Gold 66 Plus WP (Cuprous oxide + mefenoxam), Metalm 72 Plus WP (Cuprous oxide + metalaxyl), Nordox 75 WG (Cuprous oxide), Funguran-0H WP (Cupric Hydroxide), Champion WP (Cupric hydroxide) and Kocide 2000 WP (Cupric Hydroxide), Fungikill WP (Cupric hydroxide + metalaxyl) and Agro-Comet WP (Cuprous oxide + metalaxyl) are recommended for spraying against the black pod. Similarly, three insecticide types, Confidor (Imidacloprid), Akate Master (Bifenthrin) and Actara (Thiamethoxam) are being used.

4.0 ACHIEVEMENTS OF CODAPEC
The CODAPEC programme has been very productive. The programme is a source of employment for the youth. CODAPEC alone has engaged over 60,000 people as sprayers, supervisors and mechanics in the rural communities. Several transporters and Distributors are directly and indirectly involved in the spraying exercise.

As a result of the CODAPEC programme, the black pod disease incidence and mirid infestation have reduced significantly as shown by field evidence and by farmers’ testimonies. Hitherto, loses due to black pod were about 60 to 100% whilst losses due to mirid were between 25% and 35%. Production figures show that yield per ha has increased substantially in virtually all the districts across the country. Consequently, cocoa production in Ghana has gone up from 380,000 MT at the inception of the programme to almost 500,000 MT in 2002/2003 and reached an all time high of 740,458 MT in the 2005/2006. It is worthy to mention that the introduction of a “mass spraying” exercise between 1959 and 1962 is believed to have resulted in the high production of over 580,000 MT recorded in the 1964/65 season. Farmers own testimonies strongly suggest that their financial positions have generally improved. CODAPEC has helped to generate more foreign exchange for the country through cocoa sales.

The renewed enthusiasm of farmers following the introduction of CODAPEC has rekindled cocoa cultivation; new farms have been established and old ones rehabilitated. According to the Seed Production Unit of COCOBOD, the demand for planting materials has gone up substantially since the programme begun some nine years ago. The programme has demonstrated beyond doubt that Cocoa farming can be profitable.

5.0 CHALLENGES
Despite the successes chalked, the CODAPEC programme is beset with several challenges. The first is lack of adequate co-orperation from farmers. To realize optimum benefits from the spraying programme, farmers are advised to do additional spraying against the black pod and the mirid menace, but most farmers ignore this advice and rely solely on what CODAPEC provides. Inadequate spraying gangs is also a major problem and consequently full coverage of farms has not been possible. Lack of reliable statistical data on cocoa farmers and their farm sizes is also a constraint. It is apparent that the majority of farm sizes, as submitted by the Gang Supervisors, are not accurate. Reports from some farmers suggest that some Spraying Gangs also charge farmers fees before farms are sprayed. This practice is illegal and unacceptable and seriously undermines the spraying exercise since the chemicals and other inputs are procured by the Government of Ghana and the spraying is to be done free of charge. However, pilfering and diversion of inputs remain the biggest challenges of the programme. These malpractices occur in spite of the fact that all the pesticides have the inscription “PACKED FOR CODAPEC, NOT FOR SALE” boldly printed on them.

6.0 MEASURES TO MITIGATE PILFERING AND OTHER MALPRACTICES

CODAPEC has instituted the following steps to address the challenges:

1. The compositions of the Local and District Task Forces have been reviewed.

2. The District Coordinators have been tasked to submit the list of the District Task Force members and their telephone numbers to National Coordinator. This measure is to enable the National Coordinator to crosscheck any information, particularly on pesticide allocation and distribution, with other members of the Task Force.

3. The District Task Forces are to keep records of all workers (Sprayers, Gang Supervisors, mechanics and watchmen). The District Coordinators have been tasked to compile the list of all Gang Members and Gang Supervisors for audit inspection. A Photo Album of all workers is to be provided.

4. To ensure that diversion is reduced to the barest minimum, CODAPEC ultimately aims to distribute inputs direct to farmers through “farmer groupings”. A pilot scheme was successfully tested in 2009 in the Central and Western South Regions. The basis for the groupings is as follows: all farmers within an area of approximately 10ha will be put into one group. The 10ha is the target area per Gang per day and it also corresponds to 60 Tank Fillings which is also the target of each Gang. Pesticides will be allocated directly to the farmer Groups through the Local Task Forces. The Local Task Forces will draw up the spraying schedules in each Gang area and each group will be expected to make their fungicide/insecticide allocation available to the Spraying Gangs when their time is due.

5. The Police and other security agencies have been involved in checking and controlling the pilfering and illegal sale of the inputs at the agro-chemical shops throughout the country and making periodic swoops to arrest and prosecute offenders.

In addition, the following measures have been instituted in the distribution chain:

6.1 From Cocoa Board Warehouse To District Centres
All input allocations will be accompanied with Valid Waybills

All allocations will be consigned to District Coordinators

It is the responsibility of the District Coordinator to inform other members of the District Task Force of all allocation of inputs to the District

All Waybills will be signed by the District Coordinator (Consignee) and countersigned by two other members of the District Task Force. Any Waybill not countersigned will not be valid and District Coordinators will have to explain to Auditors why a Waybill bears only a sole signature

All signed Waybills are to be filed for Audit Inspection

6.2 From District Centres To Local Communities
All allocations will be Consigned to the Gang Supervisor

All Waybills will be signed by the Gang Supervisor (Consignee) and countersigned by two other members of the Local Task Force

All signed Waybills are to be filed by the Gang Supervisor for Audit Inspection

Gang Supervisors will have to explain to Auditors why a Waybill has not been countersigned

6.3 From Local Communities To The Farmer
Farmers are to be informed of the quantity of pesticide (number of Tank Fillings) used on their farms.

Farmers are to testify work done by signing or thumb printing the “Form A” to be provided by Gang Supervisors

7.0 CONCLUSION
In spite of the problems and other operational difficulties, the CODAPEC programme has generally been described as laudable. It is hoped that with the additional measures put in place, the 2010 programme will be more successful to make a significant contribution towards the attainment of the 1,000,000 MT by 2012.

Credit: K. Obeng Adjinah and I.Y. Opoku
public_affairs@cocobod.gh

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