By Rosemary Tukundane
The beautiful looks and aroma of cocoa attracts people to Abdalla Mangaliji farm.
But Abdalla was initially a successful coffee back in Fort portal city, kasenda village, Kabarole district.
‘’Coffee is my main source of income and I didn’t know that cocoa could do so well in my home area until I visited Bundibugyo and people there told me that cocoa is their only source of income, this made took me attention and asked for a few seedlings that I used as a start over on my farm, Abdalla said
According to Abdalla, starting cocoa was on a humble beginning that he started with raising nurseries of 200 seedlings from one acre.
He added that an average cocoa plant can produce one to three tons of cocoa beans and one tone weighs 15-16 sacs of cocoa seeds. A cocoa farmer can make 5-6 million on average yearly.
‘’Cocoa has two varieties that are grown in Uganda that is red and green, green being the most preferred variety across the country because of its continuous yielding throughout the year, he added
He added that the green variety survives under harsh weather conditions after flowering.
Conditions for cocoa proper growth
A cocoa tree is best suited to warm and humid climate. It doesn’t tolerate cold, frost or dry periods of more than five weeks.
It needs free-draining soil with a PH of 5.5 to7.5. it prefers rich soils with lots of organic matter and fertilizer.
- Good temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius
- Adequate rainfall or frequent watering when planted in dry season, it can’t survive under hot and dry conditions before flowering.
- When planting the seedlings, one has to target the steady rains to protect the crop from drying up.
- Always grown in uplands and do not survive when planted in water logged areas.
When choosing land for planting, shade should be thought of two protects the crops from direct sun light
He added that cocoa has only one season of September – May, here a farmer harvests 100-170kgs and continues to harvest from the farm despite the crop season.
Requirements for a big harvest
- Spacing of 10 by 10 feet. This gives plants chance for expansion of branches that leads to the development of more fruits.
- The seedlings have to be grown from a nursery to avoid harsh conditions that affect plants directly grown in the main garden.
- Watering at least twice a week and fertilizing the crop until it is one year old.
- Pruning is important from 1-3 years of maturity to allow access to light and prevents the tree branches from breaking down because of heavy leaves.
Harvesting process to value addition
- Green type turns to yellow and red turns orange.
- Pods are carefully harvested not damage the stem bud because this can stop development of new buds and stems.
- Beans are removed to start the process of value addition.
- They are kept for 1 week to allow fermentation
- Bean seeds are spread on a clean dry surface and left to dry.
- Roast and grind for home use or packed to market by middle men for value addition.
Products from cocoa
- Chocolate, this is the number one product from cocoa crop with a sweet taste, makes one feel good and helps on heart diseases.
- Cocoa beans can be eaten fresh enjoying the fresh juice out of them [ drinking].
- Cocoa pulp juice can be used to produce wine and gin.
Challenges in cocoa farming
- Low productivity. farmers often have limited knowledge of modern farming techniques and farm management skills as well as limited access to finance that would allow the purchase of input supplies and quality planting materials.
- Marketing challenges, cocoa farmers have a challenge of middlemen who consume the biggest percentage of their sweat.
- Pests and diseases. Fungal and oomycete disease and pests that eat cocoa fruits lead to big losses.
- Environmental concerns like deforestation and harsh weather conditions like hot weather for more than five weeks can stop a crop from flowering.