Monday, October 15, 2007
ATITOE – THE COCOA OF THE AVENOR TRADITIONAL AREA
By: K. M. SETSOAFIA
For the past five years, the chiefs and people of the Avenor Traditional Area in the Volta Region have been celebrating their annual Atitoe Festival to draw attention to the great potential that a wild tree know as Velvet Tamarind, which grows all over the area, has for the socio-economic development of the area.
From January to May each year during market days at Akatsi, loads of articulated trucks of the fruits of the tree known as “atitoe” in Ewe of “yoryi” in Ga are carted to Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast.
The tree known scientifically as Dialium guineenses has made and continue to make tremendous contributions to poverty reduction in the Avenor Traditional Area. This was made known by the Akatsi District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr. Anthony Abledu, in his speech to welcome participants to the year’s festival held on April 14, 2007 at Akatsi.
According to the DCE, it is estimated that last year about ¢4 billion was realized from the sale of the fruits to the above-mentioned countries and promised that the district assembly would do everything possible to harness its potential for the socio-economic development of the area.
Like the more popular shea nut tree, the “atitoe” tree is also yet to be domesticated. Very little is therefore known about its agronomy or its nutritional value except that it takes over 15 years to mature.
The DCE added that the district assembly was in contact with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) through the Avenor Atitoe Development Committee to see how science and technology could help in the development of the crop.
As proof of this contact, he informed the people of the presence of Prof. E. Owusu-Bennoah, the Director-General of athe CSIR, at the festival and told them that he would later on address them.
Prof. Owusu-Bennoah in his speech thanked the chiefs and people of the Avenor Traditional Area for inviting him and assured them that the CSIR would support their efforts to develop the crop.
Earlier, the Akatsi District Director of Agriculture, Mr Jacob Wayem, had written to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Sector of the CSIR requesting it to conduct research on the “atitoe” tree that would reduce its maturity period of 15 years and other aspects of such as agronomy and nutrition.
In a country where ever since the fall of the Kwame Nkrumah regime in 1966, successive governments have failed to give agricultural research the attention it deserves and where most organizations do not value research very much, these initiatives by the Akatsi District Assembly under whose jurisdiction the Avenor Traditional Area falls deserve commendation and have vital lessons for the district assemblies and the nation at large.
For the district assemblies, the main lessons are that agriculture is a location-specific activity whose development should be based on decisions taken where they are being implemented and not by bodies in faraway places and that the efforts to develop the crop must start with research as it is the first step in any effort to increase agricultural production and productivity.
But for the nation as a whole, the celebration of this year’s “atitoe” festival portrayed some unique features probably never seen in the celebration of an annual festival by the chiefs and people of a traditional area in this country.
For once, an annual festival was not dominated by speeches and inspection and/or inauguration of development projects by politicians but by speeches of an agricultural scientist, the Director-General of the CSIR and other agricultural development experts such as the Volta Regional Director of Agriculture, Mr. Julius Ametepe, and the inspection of “atitoe” trees in the wilderness of the Avenor Traditional Area. Probably of greater significance, the festival highlighted once again an observation made by a 20th century British poet, W. H. Auden, that the true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not politicians and statesmen but the scientists.
In Ghana, the truth in this observation seems to have been realized by some politicians who have at various times challenged our scientists in technology benefits at the district assembly level.
In 1999, the then Minister of the defunct Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Mr. Cletus Avoka, during the NDC era at the annual general meeting of the Research Staff Association of the CSIR, asked the CSIR to find out the needs of the district assemblies and generate technologies to satisfy them.
In a rare show of continuity, when the NPP took over the reins of government its first Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Kwadzo Baah-Wiredu, in a visit to the head of office of the CSIR in January 2002, asked its management to hold frequent interactions with the district assemblies to ensure the transfer of technologies that it had developed.
Meeting these challenges in138 district assemblies is not an easy task for an organization such as the CSIR with unlimited human and financial resources.
Agricultural research is very expensive and often takes long periods before set objectives are achieved. Achieving these objectives is often full of risks since, like any other form of scientific research, agricultural research is an adventure into the unknown. In addition to these risks, achieving impact requires effective linkages with other stakeholders such as farmers, extension, credit and marketing agencies.
Thus during discussion after the field visit, the Director-General of the CSIR called on the Akatsi District Assembly to involve as many stakeholders as possible including development partners and farmers in their efforts to develop the Velvet Tamarind for its full potential to be realized.
This call by the Director-General once again underscored the wisdom in the old saying that two heads are better than one.
Daily Graphic Monday, October 15, 2007 Page: 32