Mechanization is a crucial input for agricultural crop production and one that historically has been neglected in the context of developing countries like Ghana.
Applying new technologies that are environmentally friendly enables farmers to produce crops more efficiently by using less power. Is it time to employ mechanization in Ghana’s cocoa sector? For me, the answer is a big yes.
As the dominant cash crop in Ghana, cocoa is still contributing significantly to the growth of the economy of Ghana. Since its introduction in the country, cocoa production has expanded and spread across most of the regions in Ghana.
The production of cocoa has affected every facet of development in the country since its introduction and Ghana was at a point the world’s leading exporter of cocoa beans.
Cocoa production in Ghana has gone beyond its agricultural and economic significance with its impacts felt across the socio-cultural and political life of Ghanaians.
However, production declined since the mid-1960s, reaching its lowest level in 1983. Although production has increased consistently since the mid-1980s, it still is less than the level attained in the mid-1960s.
The decline is partly a result of decreasing areas under cultivation. True? Question for industry players to answer.
Another problem in cocoa production in Ghana is low yields per ha, which is attributed to the incidence of pests and diseases, lack of mechanization, lack of irrigation facilities, low producer prices, and non-adoption of research recommendations by the government and farmers. True? Question for industry players to answer.
For the basis of this very important conversation, I will focus on why the need for mechanization and what is sustainable mechanization.
Sustainable mechanization is a means to an end. Farmers who have access to improved agricultural tools and powered technologies can shift from subsistence farming to more market-oriented farming, making the agricultural sector more attractive to rural youth.
Sustainable mechanization supports the development of food supply chains through improved agricultural practices for increased production and enhanced food security.
It is applied to agricultural land preparation, supports timely seeding and planting, weed control, integrated pest management, precise fertilizer application, harvesting, preparation for storage, and value-addition operations along the food supply chain in terms of on-farm processing, transport and marketing.
Sustainable agricultural mechanization covers all levels of farming and processing technologies, from simple and basic hand tools to more sophisticated and motorized equipment.
It eases and reduces hard labour, relieves labour shortages, improves productivity and timeliness of agricultural operations, improves the efficient use of resources, enhances market access and contributes to mitigating climate-related hazards.
Sustainable mechanization considers technological, economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects when contributing to the sustainable development of the food and agricultural sector.
For the purpose of this conversation; let me remind you of some efforts governments adopted with the objective of improving the performance of the cocoa sector in Ghana.
In 1999, the government adopted a development strategy with the objective of improving the performance of the cocoa sector.
Under this strategy, production levels were expected to reach 700,000MT by the year 2010. Could there be a correlation between that strategy and the country’s attainment of a historic 1 million metric tonnes production output for the 2010/11 crop year?
In addition, since 2001 the government has mass-sprayed all cocoa farms under the Cocoa Diseases and Pests Control programme (CODAPEC) at no direct cost to the farmer.
In addition, the country in 2003 introduced an interest-free credit scheme called the Cocoa ‘Hi-Tech’ Programme, which aimed at increasing productivity by providing fertilizers and agrochemicals.
In its first year, 50,000 farmers benefited from this programme, a number that increased to 100,000 one year later.
The ‘Hi-Tech’ Programme is managed jointly by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), COCOBOD and MoFA.
I believe it is time to push and speak more on the subject of mechanization for our cocoa farmers. The question is, “are we ready for mechanization as a country?
Are our cocoa farmers ready for mechanization? Are we thinking about sustainable agriculture? Are we feeling the passion for climate change? Do we really want to end hunger? Do we want to achieve food security? Do we want to improve nutrition? Questions for Ghanaians and industry players to answer.
Even the wealthy countries of the world are supporting their farmers with modern mechanization technologies and making other facilities available for them. What is Ghana waiting for? Who must take the initiative? I need answers.
Modern-day mechanization does not necessarily mean big investments in tractors and other machinery.
Farmers need to choose the most appropriate power source for any operation depending on the work to be done and who is performing it.
The level of mechanization should meet their needs effectively and efficiently.
Why mechanization for our cocoa farmers
Firstly, it leads to improvement in Agricultural Technique: The improvements come in the area of irrigation, land reclamation and the prevention of soil erosion. It will help our cocoa farmers make the most even with limited land size.
Secondly, it modifies the social structure in rural areas: Mechanization of cocoa farms in Ghana will lead to changes in social structure and also reduces the farmer’s time and effort.
Thirdly, it helps introduce the cocoa farmer to commercial agriculture: Mechanization in farming methods results in a shift from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture. This, in turn, has two benefits: Domestic methods are slowly replaced by commercial methods and commercial methods enhance productivity so that it will be helpful to reach international markets for selling.
Again, mechanization may help mitigate the issue of farm labour shortage. Migration from rural to urban areas in search of jobs is identified as a major cause of labour shortage. The usage of agriculture machinery like inter cultivators, and power tillers can make up for the labour deficit and its related problems.
Lastly, it is the best return on investment. Revenue from farming can be multiplied with the adoption of appropriate tools and machinery and this helps in improving the farmer’s economic condition.
Stanford Blade, a Canadian agronomist and the dean of the faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta said, “The farmers who succeed are the ones who are going to incorporate new technologies.”
True? Question for industry players within the cocoa sector to answer.