Contributed by Melanie Bateman, Integrated Crop Management Adviser, CABI in Switzerland
Not long ago, farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana had seen citrus as a potential money-maker but now many are now giving up in despair as pathogens such as citrus angular leaf spot (Pseudocercospora angolensis) and citrus black spot (Guignarida citricarpa) diminish yields and make the fruits unmarketable. Many farmers have even gone as far as cutting down their orange trees and replacing them with cocoa.
Recently, a team of plant doctors, Ministry of Agriculture extension staff, researchers and other experts led a series of plant health rallies to help equip farmers with information on how to manage citrus angular leaf spot and other plant health problems constraining citrus production. The rallies were presented to unsuspecting members of the public – ‘spontaneous’ rather than regimented extension. The plant health rally approach enabled the team to reach many farmers in the affected area in a short period of time. It also served as a means for the team of experts to gather information from farmers’ on their problems and experiences.
For example, the discussions with the farmers uncovered another major challenge for the citrus producers: because of a lack of a market, farmers are unable to sell the oranges that they do produce. This is another factor contributing to the decision taken by some to replace citrus with cocoa. This feedback loop will help to strengthen the support provided to farmers. Ultimately, it is hoped that the support provided through plant health rallies, plant clinics and other extension activities will help farmers to respond to and begin to remove the “black spot” on Ghana’s citrus.