Perhaps you have heard a West African pronounce the word ‘Milo’. It is most likely that they pronounced it as ‘Mee-low’. In the Caribbean and the US, the word is pronounced ‘My-low’. I first heard this pronunciation in 1997 and I have been arguing about the correct pronunciation ever since. That is, until I came to Ghana. Ghana makes their own Milo from their own cocoa. It is the best I have ever tasted, so I concede. They can pronounce it whichever way they like!
Ghana is the 2nd largest producer of cocoa in the world, second only to Cote d’Ivoire. There is about 1.8 million hectares of land under cocoa cultivation and currently they produce over 1 million tones of cocoa beans a year, which is shipped to several countries and used in producing fine chocolate.
Cocoa originated from around the headwaters of the Amazon in South America but cocoa was introduced to Ghana by a Ghanaian man named Tetteh Quarshie in 1876. He traveled to Fernando Po island in Equitorial Guinea to work as a blacksmith and when he returned, he brought cocoa beans with him and established a farm in the Eastern Region. The first cocoa farm established in Ghana by Mr. Quarshie still exists as well as two of the trees that he planted. (Cocoal trees can live and remain productive for hundreds of years if they are well cared for.) The farm has many cocoa plants, as well as, bananas, cocoa yam, and other plants to provide shade for the cocoa trees and ground cover.
A second cocoa farm of note is the six-acre Jubilee Farm established on the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s Independence in 2007. In return for a contribution to the farm, an individual or company can plant a tree and have their name on a plaque in the garden.
If he visited Ghana today, Mr. Quarshie might recognize his farm, but he would not recognize the varieties of cocoa plants growing around it. The variety of cocoa plants that he brought with him took seven-eight years to yield a crop. If you planted cocoa as an old man, you may never see the fruit of your labour.
The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), an arm of the Ghana Cocoa Board has successfully produced several varieties of cocoa. They have managed to produce cocoa plants that produce fruit in one – two years. In addition, they have successfully merged cocoa species with different features to produce fruit which are superior in terms of their hardiness and resistance to pesticides.
The following are among the most notable achievements of the Institute since its inception:
* Characterization of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot disease as a virus disease and the discovery of mealy bugs as vectors of the disease. (Early 1940’s)
* Control of capsics by mass spraying with insecticides. (Early 1950’s)
* Understanding of cocoa fermentation and flavour chemistry.(Late 1950’s)
* Understanding of the relationship between cocoa shade, nutrition and yield leading to agronomic packages giving yields of over 3 tons ha. (1959-63)
* Development of early bearing and high yielding WACRI Series II hybrids by crosses between the Amelonado cocoa and the Amazon cocoa. (1964)
* Mass hand pollination of clonal seed gardens for large scale production of seed pods. (Early 1970s)
* Isolation and characterization of CSSV disease and development of diagnostic methods. (1980’s and 1990’s)
* Development of pectin, alcoholic drinks, animal feed and jelly as by-products from cocoa wastes; anti development of cosmetics and soaps from cocoa butter, shea butter and related fats. (1980’s and 1990’s)
* Overcoming the problem of cross and self-incompatibility by the selection and multiplication of types which re-cross and/or are self-compatible, thus guaranteeing high yields in kola.
(Source: Ghana Cocoa Board)