Improved Cocoa Nursery Helps Community to Grow
One of the reasons I became an Agricultural Extension Agent was my passion for agroforestry. In my site in the South Region, I was able to fulfill this desire to work with trees by planning and then creating a nursery for cocoa trees. The idea came to me when my counterpart was explaining the different ways that host country nationals in my community made their money. Cocoa is one of the main cash crops of Cameroon and the South Region is well known for its cocoa production. However, the variety of cocoa in my village is very susceptible to diseases, often causing farmers to suffer as their crops die. There
is a simple solution to one aspect of this problem: plant improved varieties. Unfortunately, not all farmers have access to these varieties or the initial capital to invest in new seeds. This is where my idea of constructing a community nursery came in, I was able to access an improved variety of cocoa seeds at IRAD (Institute of Agricultural Research for Development) that is more resistant to the different fungal diseases that harm the production of the cocoa pods. This ultimately would result in an increase in cocoa production in my village.
With the non-wavering support of my counterpart, we gathered community members together to help build a nursery to grow the improved cocoa variety. We used materials we had in village: bamboo poles and tree branches for the support, and palm leaves for the roof. Unfortunately, tragedy struck that night when a thunderstorm roared its way through my village. The next morning I saw the damage the storm did to the nursery: the entire structure had collapsed! Luckily, we had yet to plant our seeds so the damage was just to the structure. Later, we rebuilt the structure more securely – by learning from our mistakes – to be able to withstand a thunderstorm of similar strength.
My community and I decided that seven hectares, or approximately 8,200 saplings, was sufficient for distribution to model farmers after the six months in the nursery. We purchased the improved variety seeds from IRAD and the next day we broke open the pods, soaked and cleaned the seeds, and planted each seed into a sachet of dirt.
From that day on, a community member or I watered the emerging cocoa saplings every day and it was rewarding just to watch the healthy cocoa plants grow. After the six months, the model farmers planted the cocoa on their land. While I was able to see the farmers plant the cocoa in their plantations, it won’t produce fruits until after three or four years of growing so I personally will not be there for the first harvest. However, the volunteers after me can build on this project and, with time, these little saplings will be able to benefit my community in more ways than I can ever imagine.