Written in September 2008
Hundreds of cocoa farmers gathered in Dunkwa, Ghana, on September 18, 2008, to celebrate the success of the Cocoa Abrabopa Association (CAA). Also represented were agro-input dealers and importers, government officials, partner organizations and traditional Ghanaian leaders (tribal chiefs, elders, etc.).
CAA activities began when Wienco Ghana Ltd., Ghana’s main agro-input importer, started supplying inputs to cocoa farmers on credit. Since December 2007, the Netherlands’ embassy in Ghana has supported CAA through the IFDC-coordinated project "Establishment of the Cocoa Abrabopa Association."
“CAA is an intermediary between farmers and partner organizations, and trains members in technical aspects of cocoa,” says Manon Dohmen, IFDC Project Coordinator. “The project builds on successful collaboration among public and private organizations.”
Henry Wientjes, founder and former executive director of Wienco, said, “Cocoa is not purely business – it’s a way of life. We can be enormously powerful if we are well-organized and strengthen our numbers. That requires honesty and discipline. Discipline can improve our lives.”
Alex Asante Afrifa,a soil scientist with the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), explained that, “Cocoa has been grown here for more than a century by mining nutrient reserves from the forest land, using no fertilizer. Before Abrabopa, production was going down. Farmers were harvesting only 250 to 450 kilograms of dried cocoa per hectare – far less than the potential of 800 kilograms per hectare that is possible with the introduction of the cocoa high-tech package, which includes fertilizers.”
The project increases cocoa production through farmer adoption of the “Abrabopa package” – cocoa fertilizers, chemicals to control diseases and pests, spraying equipment, extension services and farm management training. CAA members get their inputs on credit and pay a yearly fee for training in business and product knowledge.
The slogan of the cocoa media campaign, “Be Part of the Winning Team,” was prominently posted across Dunkwa during the celebration.
“Isaac Nartey of Assin Fosu is definitely part of the ‘Winning Team,’” Dohmen pointed out. Nartey started using the Abrabopa package last year on his 0.8-hectares (ha) farm. “I harvested 18 bags (a bag = 63 kilograms) of cocoa, where I formerly got five to seven bags. This year I may reach 25 bags,” he said proudly. “I don’t need to borrow money from friends anymore and I can regularly pay my children’s school fees.”
The Abrabopa package has brought significant change to Mary Nyako’s 1.2-ha cocoa field. “The main problem was how to get the money to buy inputs,” said Nyako, a member of the Ankwagya Farmer Group. “I learned of CAA and the Abrabopa package by radio. I joined CAA and tried the package two years ago. My production has risen from four to 10, even 15 bags. Now I can take better care of my children and my pocketbook is a little heavier.”
Patrick Adompreh, a farmer in the Volta Region, attributes his success to the input package and business training that CAA offers. “The program has taught me to keep production records and treat cocoa farming as a business,” he said. Last season, Adompreh harvested 21 bags of cocoa on his 0.8-ha field.
Eliseus Opoku-Boamah, CAA’s Executive Secretary, said, “Cocoa production is the most important economic activity of rural Ghana and is one of the largest contributors to Ghana’s domestic product. Progress has been significant — but much more remains to be done.”
Her Excellency Lidi Remmelzwaal, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ghana, said, “Cocoa has certainly been an important binding element in Ghana-Netherlands relations. The Netherlands is the destination of 60 percent of Ghana’s cocoa production. Rotterdam is famous as a ‘cocoa port.’
“I hope that in due course, Cocoa Abrabopa will develop as a model for farmer-based organizations – not only in Ghana but across West Africa,” Ambassador Remmelzwaal added.