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The Christian Science Monitor

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change-Agent/2014/1117/Ghana-s-success-in-fight-against-hunger-holds-lessons-for-others
It started with a simple move to change the tax code so that farmers could keep more of the value of their cocoa crop.
By Chris Arsenault, Thomson Reuters Foundation

NOVEMBER 17, 2014

ROME — As India starts its version of Brazil’s famous zero hunger campaign, the world’s most populous democracy could take some inspiration from Ghana.

The West African country “has met zero hunger,” Jose Graziano da Silva, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization said last month.

Former Ghanaian president John Kufuor can take at least some of the credit for this.

It started with a simple move to change the tax code when Kufuor’s government first took office in 2001.

Taxes on cocoa, a key export crop, stood at 60 percent of the market price, so growers could keep only 40 percent of the value of their production.

“We reversed this, giving the farmers 60 percent of the profits,” Kufuor said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “The state had been over-taxing the farmer.

“Farmers needed chemicals for fighting pests and fertilizers, the government paid for this.”

The investment paid off, and cocoa production doubled within four years, sending more money into state coffers for infrastructure investment.

The government then turned its attention to trying to mitigate deforestation. In 1960, more than 60 percent of the country was covered in forest but deforestation has decreased coverage to 21.7 percent today.

The state allowed landless families and unemployed people to use land where the forests had been cut, to plant crops interspersed with new trees in what became known as the Modified Taunga System.

After getting training from the state, local residents were able to earn an income when the trees were harvested, preventing additional land from being logged and improving food security for some of Ghana’s most vulnerable citizens.

Finally, the country tried to move up the value chain for its cocoa production.

“Chocolate, which is loved internationally, especially by the ladies, wasn’t part of our traditional diet,” Kufuor said. “The beans were exported.

“We saw the need to attract top quality processors to Ghana.”

Some large multinational confectionery companies moved in and set up factories, though the country still exports more raw beans than refined chocolate.

“The objective is to add value locally so 70 percent of the cocoa is processed and only 30 percent is exported [raw]. We are moving towards this,” Kufuor said.

Ghana’s per capita GDP shot up to $1,300 in 2007 from $400 in 2001, thanks largely to growth in the agriculture sector, high commodity prices, and the discovery of oil, which allowed it to reach lower middle income status and meet the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction ahead of schedule.

“One of the key factors [in Ghana’s success] has been strong political commitment at the highest level,” FAO Ghana representative Lamourdia Thiombiano said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“They subsidized production, put resources into boosting capacity, and invested in providing services to farmers.”

“More production led to relatively better access to food,” Thiombiano said.

Significant development challenges remain, despite the improvements in agriculture, and Ghana ranked 138 out of 187 countries surveyed in the U.N. 2014 Human Development Report.

Today Kufuor, who gives speeches on the U.N. circuit and runs his own foundation, is optimistic that “rays of hope” and good policies will continue to improve food security in a world where 1 in 8 people still suffer from chronic malnutrition.

• This article originally appeared at Thomson Reuters Foundation, a source of news, information, and connections for action. It provides programs that trigger change, empower people, and offer concrete solutions.

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Daily Trust

http://allafrica.com/stories/201408141365.html?viewall=1

By Ojoma Akor
Cocoa is a very important cash crop in Ghana and is one of the main contributors to the country’s foreign exchange earnings. But like other crops, it is also plagued by various diseases and pests.

The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) is called Tafo Cocoa Station when it was established in 1938 and later changed its name to the West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI) in 1944. It has mandate of conducting research to facilitate improved production of disease-free or disease-resistant cocoa, not only in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) but also in other West African countries which were under British rule, including Nigeria.

However, various countries later established their own research institutions after they gained independence and Ghana renamed WACRI as the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) was established in Ibadan, Oyo State, on December 1, 1964, as a successor autonomous research organisation to the Nigerian substation of the defunct West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI).

According to the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Franklin Amoah, the institute was established in 1938 after a farmer observed some unusual symptoms on his cocoa tree as a result of diseases, particularly the swollen shoot disease in 1936.

The institute was established to look into the case and other diseases and pests problems that came up. It later became a centre for research for post-graduate students from different countries.

Amoah said when it comes to research on Cocoa, Ghana and Nigeria have many things in common, adding: “The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria was formerly a substation of our institute until after independence when they decided to be autonomous.

“But since then we have had a lot of collaboration and share a lot of things, including research findings. Virtually every year I travel to Ukraine where I collaborate with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria,” he told media fellows of the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) when they visited the institute in Tafo, Ghana in April.

He said the diseases and pests of cocoa are major problems but the research institute has been doing its best to keep the disease and pests under control, adding that the two major diseases that affect cocoa are the swollen shoot disease and black pod disease.

“As at now, we are managing the swollen shoot disease, we have not found any major cure for it. It is a viral disease. As I speak over two million cocoa trees have been removed, eradicated, cut out and replanted while the breeders are also trying to develop materials which are very resistant or tolerant to the disease.

“We are also putting other agronomic practices to ensure that the spread of the disease is minimised. We have what we call the barrier cropping where core plot of cocoa is surrounded by two or three lines of non host plants.”

He said the swollen shoot is a major cocoa disease in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, adding that the symptoms vary with environmental conditions. The symptoms include the swelling of the root or stem, leaf discolouration and death of the trees, thus, affecting crop yields.

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Yao-Hua Law

 

Speed read
Introduced Philidris ants cut cacao tree yields by aiding a pathogen’s spread

But trees with native ants had greater yields than those without any ants

Farmers who manage ant communities are also managing pests, says expert

 

[KUALA LUMPUR] Native ants living in cacao trees in Indonesia that are often seen as pests in fact seem to boost their yields, a study suggests.

Scientists from Germany, Indonesia and Sweden studying how ant communities affect cocoa yields in Sulawesi found that trees with abundant native ants (Dolichoderus sp.) produced the best yields. In contrast, the yields of cacao trees where ants were excluded were 27 per cent lower and those in which an invasive, foreign ant species (Philidris sp.) were introduced had yields that were 34 per cent lower, the study says.

The results were published last week (4 December) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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“Farmers face many challenges and those who manage ant communities are also managing pests.”

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Stacy Philpott, University of California Arno Wielgoss, a graduate researcher from the University of Göttingen, Germany, and the lead scientist of the 16-month study, tells SciDev.Net that ants live in a mutualistic partnership with the mealybugs — insects that suck plant nutrients and excrete sugar to their guardian ants. But they also protect the cocoa pods from even more destructive pests such as cocoa pod borers and Helopeltis bugs.

The invasive Philidris ants transmit the fungus-like plant pathogen Phytophthora sp. and so the heaviest yield loss, according to the study. These ants collect pieces of Phytophthora-infected cocoa pods to build protective tents over the mealy bugs, it says. The study says that Philidris ants and their tent materials harbour infectious Phytophthora spores with which the ants contaminate fresh cocoa pods.

Indonesia is the world’s third biggest cocoa producer. But increased pest attacks and aging trees have slashed its production this year.

Worldwide, cocoa farmers struggle against severe but geographically limited pest infestations. Ants, which form part of the complex network of life in cocoa farms, are often seen as pests.

Farmers often dislike ants, says Stacy Philpott, an associate professor in agroecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who studies insects in another tree crop, coffee. She says that the study is important in advancing the understanding of the ecological roles that ants play.

Wielgoss warns that insecticide spraying could hasten Philidris dominance as “insecticides harm other ant species more than Philidris that are protected in their tents”. The spread of Philidris, he adds, would also be likely to aggravate Phytophthora infection.

Despite this, the effects of having Dolichoderus ants may vary, as a Malaysian Cocoa Board officer says that untreated cacao trees produce only half the yields of trees with ant treatment.

Philpott says: “Translating scientific results into practice can be difficult despite vigorous research. Farmers face many challenges and farmers who manage ant communities are also managing pests.”

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.

Link to abstract in Proceedings of the Royal Society
References
Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2144 (2013)

http://www.scidev.net/global/agriculture/news/native-ants-help-indonesian-cocoa-yields-1.html

 

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