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Launch of a new project to combat an important cocoa disease in West Africa

Healthy cocoa plant

The fruits of this cocoa tree look healthy. Photo: Thomas Alföldi, FiBL

Plant with swollen shoots

Here, the shoots are already swollen. Photo: Christian Andres, FiBL

Dead cocoa plants

The disease can even lead to die-back of the whole tree. Photo: Christian Andres, FiBL

How can transdisciplinary systems research help develop a novel holistic concept for reducing the spread and impact of cocoa swollen shoot virus disease in West Africa? This is one of the main questions addressed by a new project launched in the spring of 2015.

West Africa is the world’s most important region for cocoa production. One of the major limitations to the productivity of the crop is the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD). In Ghana, where some 800,000 farm families depend on revenues from the cocoa crop for their livelihoods, CSSVD is significantly reducing cocoa production. The governmental eradication program is addressing the problem by cutting out infected trees. Up to date, more than 250 million cocoa trees have been cut, which has led to an estimated monetary loss of more than 7 billion US dollars. Despite these efforts, CSSVD is still prevalent in the field today.

Bring the farmers into planning

Seventy years of research and development on the disease have only partly been able to address the problem. The aspect of biodiversity as help in the regulation of the disease has not been considered in the past. A shift in research approaches is needed; farmers and other relevant stakeholders need to be brought into planning and the execution of future research and intervention activities. The proposed project targets the reduction of the spread and impact of CSSVD by contributing to the adaptation of the existing governmental CSSVD prevention and control program. This is achieved by (i) performing a meta-analysis to quantitatively assess a vast body of data from both published and unpublished sources, (ii) complementing and validating the consolidated knowledge gained in the meta-analysis with an in-depth study on the effect of shade on CSSVD regulation, and (iii) disseminating the results by farmer field days and exchange workshops, as well as integrating them into the existing governmental CSSVD prevention and control program through transdisciplinary workshops involving all relevant stakeholders.

The project is a collaboration between ETH Zurich, FiBL, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, and the University of Ghana. It is funded by the Engineering for Development (E4D) Programme of ETH Global.

More information


Christian Andres, FiBL Switzerland


fibl.org: The project in the FiBL database