Thursday, 3 October 2013

Cocoa farmers' own priorities

Our research subject was to study the constraints for replanting aged cocoa farms with hybrid cocoa varieties but we asked questions to capture wide range of possible constraints as well as possible alternatives available to the farmers. Some of questions tried to see if farmers viewed a better farm maintenance as an alternative to replanting and as a means to increasing yields and incomes. 

Most of surveyed cocoa farmers (73%) are not interested in major overhaul of their cocoa farms such as cutting old but still bearing cocoa trees and replanting with new trees. They prefer to be able to start using fertilizer in existing farm and drive the plants for higher yields in this way. 

Graph 1: Farmers choices between increased inputs or replanting with hybrids

In above question, the answer option of replanting aged trees with hybrid varieties was still one of the two choices. In next 2 questions, farmers were fully free to select their own most important issues and concerns in their cocoa farming business. See what responses they gave: 

Graph 2: Farmers' preferred conversation topics 

Graph 3: Farmers' main worries

As you can see on these 2 graphs none of them seem to view replanting as one of their main issues/concerns. Affordability of inputs and disease management i.e. maintenance is the priority for most of the farmers. 

Why farmers prefer to ''try a better maintenance''?

1. Own observations. They are well aware of direct impact of inadequate maintenance (lack of fertilizer usage, inadequate or late spraying) on their yields. See the graph below:

Graph 4: Farmers' assessment of loss in cocoa yields 
due to diseases

2. Trained awareness. Almost all of our 90 surveyed farmers have received various training through extension officers. They have been ''sensitized'' on the relationship between yield and spraying/fertilization/pruning

3. Borrowed inputs. Almost all licensed cocoa buying companies tried and continue to offer fertilizers to their supplier farmers and later deduct the cost of fertilizers from purchased cocoa value. Such interventions show to engaged as well as not engaged but nearby living farmers the difference the fertilizer makes.

This particular post is about farmers' own priority formation not about what other stakeholders do or how to scale ''better maintenance''. These issues have been partially addressed in another post of this blog.