Comfort Appiah beams with delight as she inspects her flourishing cocoa farm. Wearing a brown plaid dress and a pair of trousers, she says, “It’s often difficult for women farmers to properly manage their cocoa farms to achieve the expected yields. The hot weather, pests, and diseases often affect yield.”
Mrs. Appiah is 58 years old and owns a ten-acre cocoa farm in Jerusalem village, southern Ghana. She works very hard to achieve a bumper harvest.
She says, “I normally go to inspect my farm early mornings to find out if everything is fine. Sometimes I go in the afternoon after finishing other work at home.”
Cocoa farming is labour-intensive. It requires close and continuous supervision because pests, diseases, and changes in weather can strongly affect yield. To deal with these challenges, a 2018 project called FarmGrow trained Mrs. Appiah and other small-scale farmers on best practices and smart investments to increase yields.
Mrs. Appiah says: “I have learned planning, pruning, timely weeding, and when to apply the right amount of fertilizer and chemicals. Since I started applying these farming techniques, I have seen an increase in my cocoa pods and I am also getting quality beans during harvest.”
Before the FarmGrow project, Mrs. Appiah couldn’t make enough profit from her farm because of the farming methods she used.
She says, “I was only harvesting seven bags of cocoa in a year. But now after learning from the project, I am harvesting up to 40 bags in a year.”
Mrs. Appiah adds: “At first, I did not know that lack of pruning can affect my yields. I was not weeding properly, and I also lacked adequate knowledge of fertilizer application and the chemicals used to control pests and diseases. Due to these bad practices, I nearly lost four acres of my farm to bushes.”
FarmGrow is a digital tool created by the Grameen Foundation that assesses individual cocoa farmers and their farms and recommends good agricultural practices to help farmers achieve optimum yields of 1,500 kilograms per hectare.
Francis Arthur is the senior program specialist at the Grameen Foundation. He says that more than 9,000 Ghanaian farming households have benefited from the project. Thirty per cent of these are women cocoa farmers.
Mr. Arthur explains: “Some of the early assessments made on participating farms include planting materials, farm conditions such as tree age, tree density, tree health, and diseases. We also assessed soil conditions like pH and organic matter.”
Bismarck Kojo Seyram Dzeniku works for Touton SA, a commodity buying company in Ghana. He is a field worker who helps Mrs. Appiah follow good agricultural practices for cocoa.
Mr. Dzeniku says: “An acre of land should produce eight to ten bags of cocoa beans weighing about 62.5 kilograms per bag. Mrs. Appiah is making progress [and] very soon she will be hitting the target of producing 1.5 metric tonnes of cocoa in a year.”
Joyce Kyei is a cocoa farmer in Mangoase village, in the Bono region of Ghana. She’s a widow with three children and owns about two acres of cocoa. Like Mrs. Appiah, she received training on recommended agricultural practices for increasing yield, including pruning, weeding, and applying fertilizer.
Mrs. Kyei says: “I started implementing these techniques, but it has not been easy because it requires money to buy farm inputs and hire labour. However, I have seen an increase in the number of pods on my cocoa trees as compared to last year.”
She adds: “I am grateful to the FarmGrow project. I have started harvesting the ripe cocoa pods and I am confident that the number of bags will increase from four bags to around seven bags this season.”
The current government minimum price for a 64-kilogram bag of cocoa beans is 660 Ghana Cedis ($113 US). Mrs. Appiah is happy that the price is increasing every year—and that she can now support her family with her increased yields.
She remembers struggling to find the next meal for her children while trying to manage the cocoa farm. She inherited the farm from her parents after her husband abandoned her and her six children.
But with good agricultural practices, cocoa farming has turned her fortunes. Mrs. Appiah says: “I have even invested in other businesses using income from cocoa. I now have a cold store and a small shop where I sell rice and banku (a fermented maize and cassava dish) to townsfolk. I am happy because I am supporting my children in their education.”
Photo: Comfort Appiah dries seeds.
This resource was produced with the support of the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.