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Exploring The Potentials Of Solar Energy Applications In Ghana’s Cocoa Sector

The effects of climate change, especially on agriculture production, have made it a necessity for countries to consider the use of renewable energy to reduce the over-reliance on the use of fossil fuels and their concomitant impact on the environment and ecosystems.

The shift to the use of solar energy has become an obvious choice as the amount of energy from the sun each day is enormous, readily available and cheap to support the generation of electricity to enhance various activities within the agricultural value chain.

According to Elstad (2022) solar energy is an important renewable energy technology that is emission-free, versatile and capable of generating electricity, heat water, and even power vehicles and other implements that are used to support the production of crops.

Quoting further from an IEA report, Elstad (2022) indicated that a huge growth potential exists for solar energy to become a key source of power, which will provide more than 27% of global electricity by 2050.

Although the rate of solar energy adoption in countries could be potentially hampered by economic, technical, awareness and information, financial, regulatory and policy, institutional and administrative, social and environmental, and end-use/demand-side barriers, and novelty factors (Painuly & Wohlgemuth, 2021), the prospects of introducing solar energy in Ghana’s cocoa sector will not only break the longstanding dependence on traditional practices associated with cultivating the crop but also, it will trigger a paradigm shift that will inject impetus into some core operational activities in the sector and accelerate cocoa production in a sustainable manner.

Over the years, efforts at making solar energy an integral part of the production of cocoa have not been bad.

Solar-powered torches and streetlights were donated to farmers and cocoa communities free of charge.

But it appeared that Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) alone could not touch the lives of millions of cocoa farmers and their villages in Ghana with a massive donation of solar gadgets thereby leaving significant gaps which definitely require the involvement of the private sector in the provision of solar-enabled setups.

This article, therefore, puts in perspective, some potential areas that solar energy applications could be explored to stimulate cocoa production and improve the living conditions of farmers.

Solar-enabled Cocoa Farm Irrigation

Unstable weather occasioned by climate change has made rain-fed agriculture unreliable in recent times. Irrigation farming has therefore become the obvious choice to ensure not only improved yields but also all-year-round production.

Already, COCOBOD has committed to establishing solar-powered irrigation set-ups on cocoa farms as a concrete step against the vagaries of the weather pattern and its effect on cocoa.

“The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is set to roll out an irrigation programme for farmers in cocoa growing areas to ensure all-year-round water supply for their farmlands to increase yield,” said Mr Aidoo.

With an estimated 1.5 million cocoa farmers in Ghana, the opportunity exists for the massive introduction of solar initiatives and this means, the private sector’s role is indispensable. Cocoa farmer cooperatives could serve as conduits and act as guarantors for beneficiary farmers under very flexible terms with service providers.

Solar-powered Mist Blowers

Cocoa farmers in Ghana use Mist blowers for various purposes on their farms and these include spraying pests and diseases as well as the application of liquid fertilizers.

The blowers operate on fuels and this makes the cost of using them relatively higher. Availability, accessibility and affordability of fuels are major challenges cocoa farmers have faced over the years.

Mostly, the fuels (thus, if they are able to fill the blowers at home before setting off to the farm) add to the weight of the blowers and carrying them over long distances as well as keeping them at the back for a longer period poses a potential health hazard to farmers.

This is a potential area solar application could be explored.  Solar-powered blowers will therefore be economical and user-friendly.

Solar Slashers and Pruners

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Until recently, weedicides and machetes were used to control weeds and prune cocoa farms. Apart from the weedicides leaving chemical residue in the beans to raise food quality concerns, the weedicides eventually leached into water bodies and caused destruction to the ecosystem.

In the instance of pruning with machetes, climbing tall cocoa trees to prune in most cases resulted in exposure to dangerous reptiles (snakes) and sometimes falling down from the trees and hurting.

Motorized slashers and pruners were therefore introduced a few years ago in an effort to improve farm sanitary methods, bean quality and address other challenges on the field.

Unfortunately, the engines are petrol-powered and the rising costs of petroleum products and other inconveniences call for a shift to the use of solar-powered slashers and pruners to optimize their full usage. This is another potential area for exploration by the private sector.

Rural Electrification

Most cocoa-growing communities are cut off from the national electrification grid. They basically do not have electricity to enable them to enjoy a good standard of living.

However, investments in the solar street and domestic lighting will help them significantly. In the first instance, children of cocoa farmers can use the lights to study at night.

The private sector could enter into some kind of agreement with beneficiary communities through farmer cooperatives or community leaders for the adoption of solar for improved living conditions.

Household Gadgets/Appliances

Closely related to the previous point is how solar-driven household gadgets such as televisions, fridges and radio sets and likes could be made available to farmers under flexible payment terms to enable them to live decently in the villages.

Again, farmer cooperatives could act as guarantors in this regard and assist in the repayment efforts of their members to avoid default.

Community Water Supply

Solar-enabled water facilities present another area for private sector participation. Most farming communities do not have good sources of obtaining safe drinking water.

The situation has been exacerbated by the activities of alluvial illegal miners which have destroyed water bodies leaving no choice than relying on boreholes for good drinking water.

Conclusion

Without any doubt, the spate of scientific innovations currently makes an exploration into emerging phenomena in every facet of life possible as findings will provide new paths for policy formulation.

Renewable energy is therefore the way to go now if the global consensus to protect the environment and biodiversity is to be pursued with all sincerity.

COCOBOD has piloted several solar-enabled interventions to demonstrate its readiness to support private sector participation in exploring avenues (conventional activities) within the cocoa supply chain to boost production and also improve the living conditions of the millions of the country’s illustrious smallholder farmers.

Source Cocoa Post
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