Economics and Ecology of Diversification

pp 87-101


Coconut Farmers and Lethal Yellowing Disease: A Case Study in Two Villages in Ghana’s Central Region

  • Jean OllivierAffiliated withCirad-Persyst, UPR Systèmes de Pérennes Email author 
  • , Philippe CourbetAffiliated withCRD Nestlé Abidjan
  • , Richard DemocriteAffiliated withChambre D’agriculture de Gaudeloupe Baie Mahault

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The population of the coastal zone of Ghana gradually adopted the coconut as a commercial crop in the twentieth century. Thanks to its adaptability to the environment and its many social benefits, the ‘tree of a hundred uses’ has become the main crop of this area. Unfortunately, in the 1970s, the lethal yellowing disease of coconut (LYDC) spreads westwards from Cape Three Points. The disease’s impact on production and income of thousands of farmers has been disastrous. What are the strategies adopted by farmers to cope with LYDC? While emigration provided one solution, diversification was another. Proximity to palm oil and cocoa markets and the rubber project were decisive in this choice of tree crop diversification. At the same time, attempts to plant coconut in areas far removed from areas where the disease was concentrated or had broken out were observed. The history of coconut cultivation in Ghana therefore confirms the theoretical premise of this book. At the end of the first life cycle of a particular perennial crop in a region, the region tends to diversify due to ecological and social necessity. At the same time, the crop ‘shifts’, following its adoption in new regions, to a virgin or at least disease-free environment.