Include Kola Nut in Ghana’s Diversification Programme

Kola nuts

Accra, Ghana, May 21, 2019//-Ghana has over the years over-relied on one cash crop- cocoa, and it is high time it turns to other cash crops with ready markets.

One such crop is kola nut. Kola nuts have been an important trade item in the West African sub-region for many centuries.

History shows that the kola nut has been a major commodity in West African markets for many centuries, beginning long before its distinct taste provided inspiration for several soft drinks.

Kola nut has for some hundreds of years served as an important article of trade in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. It has long served as an important crop for Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan in the Trans-Saharan Trade.

Large quantities of kola nuts have been traded both among the countries of West and Central Africa and the Sub-Saharan Africa for centuries.

Extensive trade was then made to Burkina Faso, one of the old routes, where kola nuts from Ghana and Sierra Leone are conveyed first by lorry and then by donkey to the frontiers of Sudan and further travel to North or East).

The kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree which is indigenous to West Africa. The trees, which reach heights of 40 to 60 feet, produce a star-shaped fruit. Each fruit contains between two and five kola nuts.

According to research Kola nut is a tropical cash crop considered as a ‘food-drug’. Kola nuts have a bitter taste when chewed fresh. When they are dried, the taste becomes milder.

The nut is a cultural staple in many West African countries, prized for its effects as a central nervous system stimulant.

Throughout West Africa, every market, bus depot, and corner shop has small piles of kola nuts for sale. In the recent past it was a significant cash crop for rural farmers in Ghana

In Ghana the crop is cultivated mainly in the Eastern, Volta, Ashanti, Bono, Ahafo and the Western regions where it serves as the main livelihood of many farmers and traders.

The major agronomic factors that limit kola production include old age of trees, partial and total sterility and inefficient natural pollination. The tree is also known to display long gestation period sometimes lasting over 10 years. Thus, the provision of improved planting materials is seen as a way of enhancing kola production.

An unpleasant issue in the industry is the marketing process. Unprocessed fruits (pods) are sold by farmers to middlemen in baskets; a practice that requires some level of experience on the part of both the farmers and the middlemen in determining the value of the pods.

On the part of the farmer, he needs to know the value of the unprocessed fruit he is offering for sale so as not to be cheated, while the middlemen need to deduce value of the final product after processing, possibly from pods that contain big nuts as compared to those with small nuts.

Not to be overlooked is the apparent lack of interest by the government and policy makers in developing the kola nut sector – a very unfortunate situation since with more care and adequate cultural practices farmers could significantly increase their yields, boost the country’s export earnings and economically improve themselves.

By Oppong Baah, African Eye Report

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