Published: Monday 15 July 1996

A quiet revolution is taking place in the cocoa plantations of Nigeria. Cocoa yields had been on the decline over the ages due to ageing and neglect. Now farmers in the cocoa heartland of Ondo state are being trained to use artificial pollination and mycorrhizal (a symbiotic association of a fungus and the roots of a plant) fertilisers. The result has been overwhelming. Says project leader Adeduro Adegeye of lbadan University in Nigeria, "Even from trees as old as 50 years, we have found we can get production up from the 10 to 12 pods the farmers are getting now, to above 100 pods per year." Artificial pollination also gives farmers the option to time cocoa harvests to suit their own needs, such as coinciding with good drying weather for beans. Adegeye and his team are aided by farmer organisations in the Ondo state which grows two- thirds of Nigeria's cocoa. Nigeria's cocoa production plummeted sharply from 284,000 tonnes (t) in 1971 to 130,000 t in 1994-95. With the application of the new methods, its cocoa harvest could bounce back to 200,000 t a year.

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