Dzodze (V/R), Jul. 1, GNA - The potential of oil palm cultivation to transform poor rural areas into bustling agro-industrial business hubs is very high, Dr Theophilus Emmanuel Ofori-Asamoah, an Oil-Palm Research Executive, said on Wednesday.
He said there was evidence elsewhere in the world to show that the development in the oil palm and coconut industries had significantly improved the lives of the people through creation of primary production and processing industries at the rural level.
Dr Ofori-Asamoah, who is Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Oil Palm Research Institute (CSIR-OPRI), was speaking at the 2004 Africa Scientific Renaissance Day at Dzodze in the Volta Region.
The Day, which was set aside by the Organisation of African States (OAU), now African Union, at its 46th Ordinary Ministerial Council held in Addis Ababa in July 1987, is celebrated in Ghana annually to expound the role of science and technology in national development. Dzodze, which is in the Ketu District of the Volta Region, was picked by the organisers in collaboration with the Planning Committee of the community's annual "Deza" (Oil-Palm Festival), instituted to revive the oil-palm industry in the area.
The function, which was attended by agriculture officers, seed specialists and farmers, was a prelude to the Deza slated for Dzodze in September, this year.
Dr Ofori-Asamoah said the Institute would recommend the dual development of oil palm and coconut for competitive and land advantages. He said the Institute was making concerted efforts to continually provide high quality material through breeding and also evolve improved agro-management strategies and cropping systems for the sustainable development of the two crops.
Dr Ofori-Asamoah said a proper application of science and technology through research and development of activities of the Institute could improve yields to between 14 to 18 Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) per hectare a year and 3.5 to 4.4 tonnes of palm oil per hectare a year.
He said the CSIR-OPRI was playing a pivotal role in the President's Special Initiative on oil palm by supplying geminated seed-nuts, transplantable seedlings and research backstopping. Dr Ofori-Asamoah said oil palm nurseries, strategically located with reference to regional distribution and potential for palm production were being developed to supply planting materials at the doorsteps of farmers.
He said three of such nurseries would be sited in the Volta Region at Hohoe, Kadjebi and Jasikan.
Dr Ofori-Asamoah said the CISR-OPRI would help revive the oil palm industry in Dzodze to levels currently achievable. Mr Samuel Kofi Dzamesi, Deputy Volta Regional Minister, said the PSI on oil palm would create vast fields of nurseries for increased cropping to take advantage of the 1.8 million metric tonne palm oil sub-regional market.
Mr Dzamesi, who hails from the area, appealed to landowners to release land for cropping to give meaning to the efforts being made to revive the industry at Dzodze and its environs.
He said the role of science and technology in development cannot be over-emphasised and urged that traditional technologies be revived and adapted to suit contemporary needs with a view to leaping the development of the country.
"We have a lot of traditional technologies, which could be modernised and adapted to suit the exigencies of the time", Mr Dzamesi stated.
Speaking with the GNA, Mr Stephen Owusu Appiah, Coordinator of the Oil Palm Research Programme of the CSIR-OPRI, blamed poor agro-management, such as indiscriminate cutting of fronds and uncoordinated felling, for the displacement of Dzodze's oil palm industry.
He also mentioned the slow drift northwards of the savannah and deteriorating soil fertility as factors hampering the development of the crop in the area.
Mr Appiah said the strategy now was to crop valleys in the area, stressing that it was not the expanse of the farm but the quality that mattered.
Dr George Okyere-Boateng, Head of Crop Improvement Programme of the CISR-OPRI, in one of six papers on the Oil palm industry he presented at the function, advised against picking fruits for planting from other farms.
He explained that since seed development was highly technical, all farmers should contact the Institute or Agriculture Extension Officers for expert advice on oil palm propagation.
Mr Linus Koffie, Ketu District Chief Executive, reiterated the resolve of government to increase access of school pupils to opportunities to study science and technology.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bruno Kofi Gbologah (rtd), Chairman of the Dzodze Deza Planning Committee said the Day should be regarded as a landmark in the socio-economic life of the community and hoped it would generate the required zest to ginger investment in the oil palm industry in the area.