Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) has wreaked havoc on cocoa crops throughout much of West Africa and continues to inflict serious economic and human hardship in cocoa-growing countries. As part of our research and collaborative efforts to better manage and combat this disease, Mars Chocolate and ICRAF recently held a regional workshop on CSSV in Accra, Ghana.
The weeklong workshop brought together more than 25 industry, local, government and research partners from Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Togo for a variety of presentations, discussions and a field visit. We had a lively discussion on new innovations that are taking place after years of research and field management of the disease. We also had the opportunity to prioritize short term research goals, and to further develop regional and international collaborative efforts on the disease.
CSSV is an incredibly complex disease, and collaboration with our partners plays a huge role in our ability to identify best practices for managing the disease and preventing its spread. CSSV is transmitted by tiny insects called mealybugs, and several different strains of the disease exist. CSSV can weaken trees and cause defoliation, and the most severe strains can kill entire cocoa plants within 2 to 3 years. In the worst cases, severe yield losses can result.
Research and improved agricultural practices have helped to better control and prevent the spread of the disease. In Côte d’Ivoire as part of our Vision For Change programme, we will be utilizing our Cocoa Development Center farms to grow more disease-resistant trees, and we’re making promising gains in this area. Barrier crops and the cutting out of diseased plants are also helping to reduce cocoa plant losses.
The regional workshop was a great success and in the future we hope to reconvene similar meetings so we can continue to make strides in fighting the disease. Working with our partners, we can identify new funding sources, incentives and eventually possibly even the creation of national policies to eradicate CSSV and improve the cocoa yield and the quality of life for local farmers on the ground.