Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The Cocoa Industry And Ghana's Economy

After Harvesting Cocoa

Poku Adaa

One of the ways by which cocoa productivity can be improved upon and boosted is by the introduction of mechanisation in the post-harvest treatment of cocoa pods.

Mechanisation can play a useful role in, one, the splitting of the pods to remove the beans and, two, the drying of the beans. The traditional manual methods, relying on human strength and on the sun are slow, time- consuming and labour intensive. These have got to be gradually supplanted with modern and improved techniques of scientific husbandry, if the industry is to survive the future.

In days gone by whole families used to sit around huge piles of cocoa pods and individually split the beans with machetes. It used to take months to complete "de-podding" for a large plantation. A lot of the beans got damaged and even so when labour drawn from extended family connections were available. Labour is scarce nowadays and getting more and more scarce. At least these days, every labour is for 'hire by day' even if the labourer is the farmer's nephew. Thus, new speedier ways have got to be found to replace manual labour.

The difficulty, however, is that reliable mechanical pod breakers are this defect. unavailable now, at least not on a commercial basis. Locally assembled ones are believed to be in use in certain central American states such as Costa Rica although not much information is available about these.

The first experimental design was constructed by a Nigerian Agricultural engineer, J.A. Jabogun in 1964 and tested by the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria and by and large, apart from a few defects, was found to be reasonably successful. Jabagun's machine was reported at the time of testing to be capable of breaking nearly 3,000 pods per hour, requiring 1 gallon of fuel for every eight to ten hours and two men to operate it. It could, how- ever, not effectively separate the wet beans from the pod fragments, so as far as is known, research has been on- going for several years now to rectify

The main centre of research aimed at putting a compact pod breaking machine on the market soon is an English company, Chrisby & Norns of Chelmsford, Essex. Several of their prototypes have been reported to have been tested in Nigeria and in the Ivory Coast. Reliable sources indicate that this company is nearing a successful breakthrough and are consequently guarding their invention rather jealously.

The market for such a machine is very huge. Nearly three months of inquiries by the writer of this article from over 200 food processing and engineering companies in Europe, India, Far East and Japan have indicated that no such machine is available commercially.

Thus, why can't Cocoa Research Organisation in West Africa get hold of Jabagun's prototype, improve upon it and mass produce it for the benefit of the cocoa industry in the areas? This is a practical area where collaboration between industry and research assumes national importance.

The development of solar dryers for achieving a rapid, controlled drying of cocoa, coffee, etc. has become a conventional common technology in all developing countries and with it, farmers in remote rural communities should not take 21 days to dry a basket of cocoa beans, one third of which would be sub-grade and of poor quality. The new age should affect the cocoa industry, the mainstay of our economy.

talking drums 1984-12-10 Cocoa New Strategy needed