Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) production in Saint Lucia is characterized by low maintenance and low productivity, as well as dependence on very few niche markets. However, the "Fine Flavour" status and quality-conscious growers represent a significant potential for expanding the production of high-value cocoa in a sustainable manner. A project in 2010 had the aim to rehabilitate 200 acres of abandoned and neglected cocoa and establish 100 acres of new cocoa plantings. Assessment of 84 farms revealed that all farms required pest control and fertilization. Pruning was required on 99% of farms, disease control (for black pod and witches' broom) on 98%, shade reduction on 94% of farms. Erosion (82%) and weed control (19%) as well as drainage (61%) were also frequently lacking, but soil health was found to be moderate to very good on all farms, with over 50% scoring "good" and over 5% "very good". Rehabilitation consisted of formation pruning, shade regulation (essentially reduction), pest and disease management, fertilization and capacity-building. The focus was on small-holdings (0.5-10 acres), where the grower was prepared to contribute part of the labour. Expansion focussed on Saint Lucia's East coast. Prioritized cultivars were ICSI, ICS39, ICS95 and ICS98. Permanent shade species were chosen in a participatory manner, resulting in the joint selection of some species recommended as cocoa shade (mango, avocado, wax apple) and others with a less suitable canopy, but other characteristics valuable to the growers, e.g. citrus and West Indian cherry. Challenges encountered were the timely availability of planting material and agrochemicals, farmers' contribution of labour and Hurricane Tomas, which hit on 30 October 2010, and devastated much of the country. Farmers were more inclined to invest time in expansion than in rehabilitation. To ensure the project had a beneficial impact beyond its duration, resources had to be focused on the more motivated farmers, while other producers and extensionists needed to be empowered to make well-informed decisions. In this context, participatory technology transfer as well as strategic planning, with wide stakeholder involvement, was an integral part of all interventions. A road map for follow-up is presented.


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