By Darren Francis
Cocoa Production in West Africa
This map shows the main cocoa production areas in West Africa. The patterns shows on this map indicate that the Southern coastline of West Africa is a major cocoa bean producing area. The pattern starts at Sierra Leone and follows the coastline down to Cameroon. Some exception to this pattern is in Nigeria, in the area of Port Harcourt there is no production and in Benin there is also no production. The brighter orange as indicated on the map which is the main part of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana accounts for 60% - 2.2 million metric tons of World cocoa production while all cocoa production in West Africa accounts for more than 70% - of World cocoa production.
The requirements to grow cocoa
The cacao tree is grown in the tropics in a band between 10 to 20 degrees north and south of the equator, sometimes called the "Cocoa Belt". The tree is often grown in the shades of other trees. It can be as tall as 12 meters, and has pod) which are more than 30 cm long. The fruits contain 20-40 cocoa beans in a sweet-sour pulp. Cocoa is usually grown under remnant forests, planted shade or intercropped with other commercial crops that protect the cocoa such as banana trees. In Malaysia and Indonesia, cocoa is also grown in full sun, although shade is used during establishment. The height of cocoa is kept to about 3-5 m to make management and harvesting easier. Average yields are low, about one tonne/ha or less of dry beans. Harvesting has a high labour demand for a relatively short and unpredictable season. After harvest, beans are fermented and dried by growers and then traded.
The ideal range of temperatures for cocoa ranges from about 20°C – 30°C. If the absolute minimum temperature falls below 10°C for several consecutive nights, the produce is likely to be reduced.
Although cocoa will grow above 30°C, the upper temperature limit is not well defined and shade cover will control maximum temperatures. High temperatures may affect bean characteristics and yield.
The distribution of annual rainfall for regions in which cocoa is grown is 1,250-3,000 mm per year. The rainfall must be well distributed and any dry period should be no longer than three months. Annual rainfall greater than 2,500 mm may result in a higher incidence of fungal diseases. Irrigation is rarely used.
Cocoa beans are grown on a wide range of soil types but mainly soils with moderate to high fertility are favoured since fertiliser inputs are low. The main requirements are:
*1.5 m depth of free draining soil
*good moisture holding capacity
*pH range from 4.5 to 7.0 preferably close to 6.5
How cocoa is produced
The end result, a delicious treat, chocolate.
The shoot of a cocoa tree. This will grow to become a cocoa tree of about 15m and produce many cocoa pods. Next the cocoa beans are roasted and dried and are the ready to be sent off to factories to be ground and made into cocoa liquor, butter and cocoa powder. The pods are gently picked and the many seeds inside extracted. A full grown cocoa tree with fully ripened pods of an orange colour.
How producing cocoa affects the people in West Africa
In the Southern part of West Africa the people are extremely depended on the cocoa tree. They particularly rely on the export of cocoa beans to for their economic and social development. It is estimated that in Africa, there are 1.2 million cocoa producers and 11 million people depending on cocoa for a living. About 70% of world production is grown by smallholders on a low input, low output basis. Typically, family or village labour is used at relatively little cost, trees can be individually managed and the quality of bean fermentation is usually assured. As a rule of thumb, one labourer is required per 2.5 ha of established cocoa in traditional production systems. Another factor is child labour, the US Department of State estimates that more than 109,000...
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