A case study of Ghanaian cocoa farmer field schools was conducted to provide feedback on a regional effort to close the yield gap across the cocoa belt of West Africa. Production practices were significantly modified in the year following training with notable increases registered in both the number of producers planting hand pollinated hybrid cocoa seedlings and in the area planted to hybrids. The effectiveness of pesticide application on farms of trained participants was significantly higher following training. Nearly 30 percent of the trained farmers were women, who appeared to derive a lower benefit from training as compared to men, although the result was on the borderline of statistical significance. In sum, farmer field school training and subsequent changes in management practices are estimated to have resulted in a net production increase of 14% for the average farmer field school participant. To improve the impact for women more attention should be given to their specific needs. Expansion of the curriculum to cover nursery management and planting/replanting options should also be considered.
Keywords: Field schools, yield gaps, pesticide use efficiency, hybrid cocoa seedlings, structural change, discovery learning
The authors wish to thank the United States Agency for International Development and the World Cocoa Foundation for their financial support. We are also indebted to Sylvanus Agordorku and Mary Adu Kuti for their insights about the start-up phase of the pilot program and to all the cocoa producers of Atwima who gave of their time and hospitality.