From a technology focus to innovation development : the management of cocoa pests and diseases in Ghana

E.N.A. Dormon

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Ghana is a major producer of cocoa in the world and relies heavily on the crop for foreign exchange revenue. However, production levels declined from the mid 1960s reaching the lowest level in 1983. The decline in production was a result of decreasing areas under cultivation, and low yields. Pests and diseases are inadequately controlled, and the use of synthetic pesticides , applied on calendar basis, is recommended. However, due to the high cost of pesticides and low producer prices, farmers are not motivated to use the synthetic pesticides. Moreover, the sole reliance on synthetic pesticides may affect human health through inappropriate handling, causes environmental problems, and leads to resurgence of pests as natural enemies are destroyed.The objectives of this thesis were to explore: (i) more sustainable pest and disease management strategies; (ii) research and extension approaches which can facilitate the development of innovations that can be used widely by farmers; and (iii) how such approaches could be institutionalised. Theoretical inspiration and concepts orienting the thesis were derived from general systems theory, soft systems thinking, innovation theory,integrated pest management (IPM) concepts and theories about learning and social capital.The research was carried out in an action research mode, and as part of it, both quantitative and qualitative methods were used in collecting and analysing data. Quantitative data were collected from experimental plots to evaluate the effectiveness of IPM practices in improving yield. They were also collected through a survey that was geared at gathering information about the demographic structure of the study area, and to gain insight in the perceptions of various actors about the existing research and extension system. Qualitative data were collected through participant observation, informal interviews and open-ended questionnaires.Based on the idea that current research and extension messages might insufficiently address farmers' problems, a diagnostic study was carried out to better understand farmers'views on the problems of cocoa production (chapter 2). The study was conducted in three villages in the Suhum-Kraboa-Coalter District of the Eastern Region of Ghana. The diagnostic study identified low productivity as the main problem and the causes were classified into socio-economic and biological factors. The biological factors include the incidence of insect pests and diseases, most of which have received extensive research attention in Ghana, and epiphytes which have been neglected. The socio-economic causes were indirect and include the low producer price, and the lack of amenities including electricity, which leads to migration of the youth to the cities resulting in labour shortages and high labour costs. From the diagnostic study, it was concluded that the biological and socio-economic causes of low productivity were inter-related in such a manner that tackling them separately would not help to overcome the problems.Experiments were carried out with farmers to find suitable solutions by tackling the factors contributing to low yields (chapter 3). An IPM package was composed and experimented with on farmers' fields with their active participation. The package included the use of aqueous neem ( Azadirachta indica A. Juss.) seed extracts to control insect pests and cultural practices to control diseases, weeds and parasitic plants. These measures improved yields significantly and increased profitability. In Achiansah, yields from IPM plots were three times that of the farmers' normal practice (1,881 compared to 650 kg ha-1) by the end of the second year and in Adarkwa, they were double (1,482 compared to 715 kg ha-1). During the same period economic returns on the additional investment in the IPM plots reached 307 and 261% in Achiansah and Adarkwa respectively. There were many constraints to adoption of the package by farmers because the practices are labour-intensive and the neem is not available in the community. Although the IPM package relied on minimum use of externalinputs,it still required some capital, therefore resource-poor farmers could only adopt them if the necessary economic, social, and organisational 'space' would be enlarged. Chapter 4 reports on how these constraints were tackled, and how, as a result, the technical package was transformed into a complete innovation. Such a complete innovation cons isted of a successful combination of the necessary 'hardware' (neem processing), 'software' (changed mindsets and goals) and orgware' (reciprocal labour; arranging for the collection and transportation of neem etc). In developing the complete innovation, it appeared useful to distinguish between regular and systems innovations. On the basis of the findings, we suggest that regular innovations can be realised at farmers' level and may be facilitated through extension agents, while system innovations require co-designing with other stakeholders to suit network-specific circumstances. Therefore, the role of extension agents, which currently emphasise technology transfer, require learning to include facilitation of social and economic network building around such technological packages. They also need to be involved in extending the principles underlying a particular innovation to other farmers.The outcomes and processes for developing the innovations in two villages (Adarkwa and Achiansah), as well as out-scaling the process to a third village (Ntumkum) were quite different. A study was therefore carried out to explain the factors responsible for the differential processes and outcomes (chapter 5). Taking the innovation trajectories in the three villages as case studies, a comparative analysis of the processes was made using sensitising concepts from theories of learning and social capital. It was concluded that the differences could be explained by the level of social capital, particularly in terms of group organisation, trust, and leadership, which influences the quality of learning required for developing innovations. An effective organisational capacity of farmers will facilitate learning and also make it easier for them to 'connect' with relevant networks. In this way it enables them create the necessary linkages between technical, social-organisational and economic elements to develop 'complete' innovations that are relevant and easily applicable under their conditions. Overall, this research had shown that it is possible to develop innovations with farmers using an interactive process. A remaining challenge, however, is to utilise the outcomes and the approach on a wider scale. The objective of the final chapter of this thesis, therefore, was to provide some thoughts and insights into what measures could be taken to institutionalise a research and extension system that goes beyond technology generation and transfer into one that can support a widespread development of innovations that are suitable to farmers' conditions. To this end the last chapter in the thesis examines the prevailing research and extension system for the cocoa sector with the help of ideas and concepts derived from Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems' (AKIS) thinking. The results from a survey carried out in the three research villages and among various actors in the cocoa sector suggest that present research and extension linkages are weak and are unlikely to support the development and uptake of appropriate technologies. Furthermore, that the current system is not well equipped for developing complete innovations . Using insights from AKIS and concepts system of innovation that is well co-ordinated and involves all the relevant stakeholders to facilitate the development of innovations that are suitable to the end-users. It is suggested that arriving at such a system requires an action learning process similar to that which the farmers went through, but this time in the domain of organisations that play or may play a role in supporting agricultural innovation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Leeuwis, Cees, Promotor
  • van Huis, Arnold, Promotor
  • Obeng-Ofori, D., Co-promotor, External person
  • Sakyi-Dawson, O., Co-promotor, External person
Award date16 Oct 2006
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085044390
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2006


  • pest management
  • cocoa
  • crop production
  • innovations
  • development
  • participation
  • ghana
  • theobroma cacao
  • plant protection
  • miridae


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