HomeNewsTechnology-induced solutions in the cocoa sector: an innovation to enhance yields.

Technology-induced solutions in the cocoa sector: an innovation to enhance yields.

According to information from the Ghana Cocoa Board’s Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Department, Ghana’s cocoa yields for the 2020–21 crop year increased to above one million tonnes for the first time ever (COCOBOD). Since the crop year 2010–11, there have been nine years of erratic yearly production, with an average annual production of 842,891 tonnes. Given that it occurred during this pandemic era, when several sectors of Ghana’s economy recovered from the devastation brought on by the new coronavirus, the current accomplishment, which can be credited to numerous interventions and reforms in the cocoa sub-sector, is rather amazing (COVID-19).

According to many accounts, the Ghanaian economy’s backbone has been the production of cocoa, which generates an estimated 800,000 jobs for farmers and greatly increases the nation’s overall foreign exchange revenues while also helping to reduce poverty there. About 30% of Ghana’s overall foreign exchange earnings come from this product, which also helps the second-largest producer maintain a 20% market share.

According to reports, cocoa is the sole export from Ghana for which all foreign exchange is retained. The estimated contribution of cocoa to Ghana’s GDP in 2022 is GH3.41 billion (GDP). According to Statista statistics, the value was estimated to be GH2.82 billion (approximately US$375 million) in 2020. Additionally, by 2025, the agriculture sector was projected to provide the maximum amount of GDP, or GH4.01 billion, during the observation period.

One of the field officers of the Sankofa Project, detailing work with the farmers

However, the cocoa sub-sector is beset by a number of issues that render the majority of the advancements made unsustainable unless the nation completely addresses them. The widespread incidents of “Galamsey” activities occupying cocoa lands, as well as the slow adoption of advanced agronomic practices, and low youth participation in cocoa farming pose a serious threat to Ghana’s cocoa productivity. These issues are in addition to those of aging cocoa farms and farmers, cocoa farmers’ income levels, child labor, pests, and other factors affecting cocoa growth in many growing regions.

For instance, the World Bank brought this up in its “3rd Ghana Economic Update” report from 2018, which urged new actions to boost and attain cocoa sustainability. In order to maintain the sector’s productivity, it is necessary to strengthen the roles of women and young people in the industry, as well as to adhere to international obligations that forbid the use of child labor in the production of cocoa.

To overcome these obstacles and ultimately lay the groundwork for sustainable cocoa production, all stakeholders’ actions must be mindfully considered and encouraged. However, the secret to these debates is to add value to the product while enabling and promoting young people’s engagement based, to a significant extent, on technology and digitization.

In order to do this, the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) V project is being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). It started in July 2021 and is scheduled to end in June 2025.

The goal of the NTF V program is to aid in the better reconstruction of the target nations with an emphasis on MSMEs in the technology and agriculture sectors by connecting them for business opportunities and synergies. The program encompasses both industries in Uganda, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal as well as the digital technology industry.

The digital technology sector and the agribusiness service industry are the two parts of the NTF V initiative.

The NTF V program activities in the digital technology sector will concentrate on creating more business-friendly tech ecosystems, strengthening support organizations like tech hubs, providing tech start-ups and MSMEs with resilient business models, connecting them to business and investment opportunities, and digitalizing traditional MSMEs.

On the other hand, the agribusiness services sector will concentrate on identifying resilient and sustainable business and production models, strengthening public-private alliances and support ecosystems, developing investment strategies to ensure leveraging of investment in accordance with the ITC Alliances, and building capacity for value chain operations in areas like market development, climate smart operations, value addition, quality, access to finance, and digitalization.

In general, the NTF V program focuses on encouraging more effective and environmentally friendly agribusiness and support services through digitalization, which would enhance trade, improve earnings, and create more options for livelihood, particularly for smallholder cocoa producers.

According to a concept document for the program, “Agritech and start-ups particularly in the digital technology component within the NTF V project need to understand the pain points of smallholder farmers and agribusinesses across the cocoa supply chain, and develop digital solutions to address these challenges.” This is necessary to create a scalable digital ecosystem in the last mile of agricultural value chains.

He argues that investing in information technology is the best course of action since it will address a wide range of issues, especially if done strategically and thoroughly. The tour to the cocoa fields, he asserted, “would provide the agritech start-ups an excellent opportunity to learn the cocoa value chain and identify methods to deliver solutions to alleviate the multiple difficulties in the value chain.”

ITC is assisting farmers in Ghana as part of the Alliance for Action program to establish sustainable farming methods through the Sankofa project. The Sankofa project is a multi-stakeholder initiative that is carried out with the assistance of additional partners including South Pole, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers and Marketing Union, Fairtrade Africa, HALBA, Max Havelaar Foundation Switzerland, World Wild Life Foundation (WWF) Switzerland, ECOTOP Suisse GmbH, and Yam Development Council.

In some cocoa-growing regions of the nation, the Sankofa project makes a significant financial contribution to the income of around 2,900 cocoa farmers. The Sankofa project’s ultimate effect is to give farmers a decent wage and increased resilience through the sale of cocoa and related products.

Gottfried Baidoo, the project’s field coordinator, emphasizes that the adoption of climate-smart practices by cocoa growers has changed the game and allowed the farmers to raise their standard of living.

Field Coordinator of the Sankofa project, Gottfried Baidoo, interacting with some of the agri-tech MSMEs during the field visit

He emphasizes, however, that the involvement of Agritech start-ups would enable farmers to contact field extension officers in real time to seek rapid answers to problems detected on the farms without any delays. These is especially true in this age of technological advancements. To this purpose, the enormous discrepancies in Ghana’s “extension officers to farmers ratio” would be addressed by the development of technological solutions.

According to Lucy Twenewah, a single mother and beneficiary of the Sankofa project in Abofrem in Ghana’s Western North Region, her commitment to putting the knowledge she learned on the project into practice through the innovative agroforestry system of farming has paid off, as she now earns more than enough to support her household while continuing to pay for her children’s education abroad and save for the future.

She asserted that, given the growing threat posed by climate change, she is better positioned to continue cultivating cocoa by utilizing cutting-edge agronomic and climate-smart techniques. She also expressed hope for digital technological solutions that will further support her work as a farmer.

Project Manager Audrey Darko at Sabon Sake, a regenerative agricultural start-up with an emphasis on soil health, realized that farmers urgently needed Agri-Tech support to advance sustainable cocoa growing, among other things. Maintaining healthy cocoa beans and pods is made possible by Sabon Sake’s solutions, which include soil health management. She believes that digital technological advancements will significantly increase the nation’s cocoa harvests.

Isaac Newton Acquah, the national project coordinator for the Netherlands Trust Fund V Project’s technology sector, claimed that the enthusiasm of digital start-ups to offer farmers solutions is revolutionary for the nation’s cocoa business. The use of technical solutions, according to him, will help address a number of issues that affect cocoa producers outside of their plantations.

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