Recent downturn in the global economies have sent strong signals to African countries to return to agricultural commodities for sustainable economic growth and development. This reality is fast invoking the need to revamp the ailing agricultural commodity based industries where specific countries have comparative advantage. The case of coconut featured prominently in this thoughts in Ghana, where the local actors have sought the technical support of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), to establish an innovation platform to revamp its ailing coconut livelihood.
The Innovation platform (IP) has brought a spark of hope and change of mindset to Takoradi people who planned to cut off coconut trees in their environs. This was experienced in a short training on how to run the activities of coconut innovation platform organized by FARA, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Oil Palm Research Institute (CSIR-OPRI) and GKV Industries along with other stakeholders on the innovation platform.
Ghana coconut innovation platform was established late in 2015 as part of the extension of the Kano-Katsina -Maradi (KKM) pilot learning site of the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program (SSA-CP). The aim of the platform is to enhance the profitability of the value chain of the coconut crop in order to foster increase in income of the coconut farmers and other stakeholders along the value chain. The established Coconut innovation platform aims to tackle the different issues from research and technology end. The platform is facilitated by CSIR-OPRI and driving by GKV Company limited, a private sector on the platform. GKV is revamping its Coconut virgin oil processing plant and bringing in state of the art machine and technology to ensure the production of high quality virgin oil to meet the export demands in the food and cosmetics industry.
While speaking at the opening, District Agricultural Director of Jomoro District Mr. Addai Bouadu; the Chief of the Sanmenye community Nana Angbokofi II and the head of the CSIR Coconut research program in Takoradi Mr Robert Kweku, expressed their willingness to provide all the needed support for the IP, knowing fully that Coconut is a major commodity in the agrarian livelihood of the people. It was reiterated that coconut has once generated huge income for most household and it is a major source of wealth for the development of Takoradi environ.
FARA lead specialist on agricultural Innovation Systems Dr. ‘Wole Fatunbi facilitated four modules on the IAR4D concept and innovation systems approach as well as a session on the setting up and management of the IP. He stated that the coconut production of Ghana in the last 10 years has suffered huge threat due to the “Cape St Paul wilt” disease of coconut which has destroyed 11,000 out of the 45,000 hectares grown to coconut in Ghana, currently a handful of coconut farmers are also cutting and replacing their crop with rubber.
This situation calls for a quick attention to rescue the commodity and the main attention is leveraging existing technologies to address the disease and afterwards enhance the value chain to ensure more income is generated from the crop as well as jobs.
In addition, the food and cosmetics industry will also be producing other value added products from the coconut waste while the research institute in turn will be leveraging improved varieties of coconut with resistance of the Cape St Paul wilt disease of coconut. The seedlings of this variety is being produced and will be disseminated among farmers to expand their hectare and gradually replace the affected plantation. In other words, the innovation platform represents a private sector driving platform and stands to generate huge benefits for all stakeholders.
At the end of the interactive sessions, the stakeholders expressed their satisfaction and a lot of hope for better livelihood from their coconut industry.