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Case study: The cocoa research institute of Savana

Research departments
Administration and service department
Research stations
The third cocoa project
Appendix 1: The six scientific research divisions in CRIS


The Cocoa Research Institute of Savana (CRIS) was originally called the Central Cocoa Research Station of the Department of Agriculture, and was established in 1937. There had been a marked decline in cocoa yield in the Eastern Province and production had dropped by as much as two-thirds. At the same time, a substantial decline in cocoa production was reported in the neighbouring countries. This led to establishment of an inter-territorial Cocoa Institute of the Coastal States (CICS) in 1944. When Savana became independent, CICS was dissolved and CRIS established, taking over the former CICS facilities at Tofa. Since then, the administration of the institute has passed through a succession of national bodies, including the National Research Council in 1962, the Savana Academy of Sciences in 1963, and the National Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 1969. Currently the institute is under the Savana Cocoa Marketing Board (SCOCOBOD). From the outset, research work at the institute was commodity based. Cocoa was the sole focus until 1979, when cola, coffee and shea nut were added. It was argued that since the production and processing of these crops was quite similar to cocoa, CRIS was an institute well suited to work on these crops too. However, the functions of CRIS remained unchanged and the primary focus remains on cocoa.

Over time, CRIS has become a mature research institution, with a long tradition of thorough scientific study. It has well qualified research staff and has most of the facilities and equipment required for effective work. Organizational arrangements are generally sound (Figure 1).


The institute is headed by a director, who is responsible for day-to-day management on behalf of the Management Committee. The director is assisted by two deputy directors, responsible for coordinating research work and administration respectively.

The organization is pyramidal with a large proportion of employees in the lower strata, and a director at the top who is required to be actively engaged in research as well.

Figure 1 Organizational structure of the Cocoa Research Institute of Savana (CRIS)

It has been argued that the pyramidal type of organization has not encouraged people to use their abilities to the full. It has stifled initiative, and has led to frustration and palpable apathy and indifference. The result has been that employees have performed their duties half-heartedly. In the wake of much talk about evolving 'collegial authority,' institute management has argued that the employees at lower levels have to be directed and trained for their jobs, while young research scientists required some initiation into the work programme. Besides, if a pyramidal organization had created frustrations, there would have been an elevated staff turnover level. However, that has not been the case, but primarily because of lack of opportunity.

Research departments

Research work at the institute is organized in six divisions (see Appendix 1 to this case study for their activities). The organization of research in divisions is for administrative convenience, as there has always been an interdisciplinary approach, with close cooperation between staff of different disciplines. Each research division is headed by a senior scientist, with a team of scientists assisted by a number of laboratory assistants and field staff. The institute has 1 600 employees in various categories. The programme of work is drawn up collectively by the team of research workers. A researcher, upon joining the institute, is expected to participate in ongoing projects, but can later conduct independent research.

There are three stages in any particular line of work:

· First, laboratory investigations, for which skilled technical staff and specialized equipment are needed.

· Second, strictly controlled field experiments, putting into test the observations and deductions made in the laboratory.

· Third, field trials on farmers' land in different localities and maintained by farmers, or at agricultural stations, under the supervision of agricultural field staff. These are to test the validity of the results from the first two stages, and to observe economic effects and farmers' reactions.


There are several institutional arrangements for programme coordination so as to ensure that research projects are not merely academic exercises executed by individual researchers and departments, but are properly integrated and mission oriented, and that the results are disseminated effectively. These include an internal research committee made up of the heads of each of the research divisions, under the chairmanship of one of the deputy directors. The committee determines the general direction of research. It studies projects, assesses their importance to the industry, and considers the possible participation of scientists of different departments within CRIS, or even from other institutions. Since it is necessary to fit all activities into the approved budget allocation, the committee also examines the human and equipment resources requirements for the project. This is the stage when the project could be accepted or rejected. Ongoing projects are similarly examined critically from time to time. The heads of departments benefit from ideas put forward by different members and carry them to their colleagues. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of the committee is of immense advantage, especially with the increasing specialization of research staff.

Bearing in mind that there are a large number of research scientists, it would appear that only a small number (i.e., the heads of department) have the opportunity to obtain an overall view of the work of the institute. However, organized seminars provide a forum at which the work of research scientists can be openly discussed by the entire staff.

At these seminars, the researcher chooses the topic for presentation. This is followed by a frank discussion on all aspects of the work. Occasionally, non-staff members from related institutions working on other, related aspects of the commodity are invited to present their work to the staff body.

The seminars serve as a means of informing staff about research work in progress at the institute and related organizations, correcting errors, suggesting possible coordination and ensuring relevance to the needs of the industry, and introducing new research staff members and technicians to the scientific background of the work carried out at the institute.

While the research programme is adhered to fairly closely, latitude is permitted in its execution. Occasionally, work on projects may have to be suspended because of absence of staff, non-availability of equipment or lack of funds.

The Management Committee reports to the Commodity Board (SCOCOBOD). Its chairman is the deputy chief executive of the board responsible for pre-harvest operations. The membership of the committee is made up of representatives of farmers, related institutions, as well as middle- and lower-level staff of the institute. This committee also examines all aspects of the institute's operations that require attention.

The Research Policy Committee advises the Management Committee regarding research policies and priorities. The Research Policy Committee comprises the director and deputy directors of CRIS, the director of the extension service unit, with one of his or her deputies and two regional officers, and one farmer.

The Research Extension Committee comprises leaders or heads of the research divisions of CRIS and representatives of the Extension Service Unit for the commodity. The director of the latter chairs its meetings. Topics discussed include joint programmes of the two organizations (i.e., research and extension) such as multi-location trials, on-farm trials, farmers' reactions to innovation (e.g., use of new insecticides, herbicides or new planting material), and any subject requiring further investigation.

While the research departments bring together officers of the same discipline, the research-related committees are commodity-centred and interdisciplinary.

Administration and service department

In addition to the six research departments there are four service or support departments. The administration department is responsible for general administration and personnel matters. It arranges recruitment, maintains personnel records, collates information for staff promotions, interprets conditions of service and, in short, helps promote an understanding and good relationship among the different categories of staff. An accountant heads the department responsible for budgeting and day-to-day financial matters, and those activities are scrutinized by an independent internal audit unit.

New construction and repair work of buildings and vehicles are undertaken by the maintenance department, which also has the task of ensuring that essential services - including water supply, electricity and access roads - are adequate and in good working order. Since some of the research trials involve extensive land preparation and upkeep, the farm management department has been assigned the task of land preparation and upkeep for field trials, and keeps the entire estate in a good sanitary and aesthetic condition.

Unlike the research departments, the leaders or heads of these service departments are selected and directly appointed to their posts on the basis of their qualifications and previous experience.

An estates committee meets periodically to monitor work progress and priority areas, particularly in the context of overlapping requests for land areas for experimental work.


As the institute generates no revenue, it has to be fully supported by the government or the commodity board. Currently the cost of operating CRIS is borne fully by SCOCOBOD. The CRIS recurrent budget (D 281 million or $US 3.1 million in 1985/86) represents only 2% of SCOCOBOD's total budget, and only 0.6% of the current value of the Savana cocoa crop. However, it implies a significant commitment to research: equivalent in gross terms to almost D 10 million per research worker or D 15 million per hectare of field trials.

Research stations

CRIS's main research station is at Tofa, with substations at Suafa, Nobsu and Belo. Tofa (267 ha) is some 120 km north of Savanawan in an area well suited for cocoa production. Suafa (230 ha) was acquired in 1973 to carry out trials which could not be accommodated at Tofa. By 1983, about 65 ha had been developed for experimental purposes. The Suafa substation is located 106 km away from Tofa, and it is difficult to provide intensive technical supervision there as most research staff are located at Tofa. The Nobsu substation (18 km from Tofa) is mainly devoted to trials involving cocoa, coffee and cola. The substation at Belo (480 km north of Tofa) has been developed for research on shea nut, which grows wild in that area. The CSD cocoa station at Wadepa in the Eastern Region is also used as an overflow site, mainly for progeny trials which cannot be accommodated at Tofa.

The third cocoa project

In 1984, the institute was preparing a five-year plan of activities to be included in the third phase of the World Bank-assisted Savana Cocoa Project. The project aimed at enhancing CRIS's capacity to carry out research on which to base expanded production of cocoa and coffee. The sub-components of the project were:

· upgrading the Tofa station and central services, and improving basic services at the substations,

· establishing a CRIS off-station trials unit, and

· staff development.

Some investments to start new trials were also contemplated. The total cost estimate was a modest $US 6.5 million. It was in this context that an evaluation of CRIS became necessary.

Appendix 1: The six scientific research divisions in CRIS


Agronomy research is aimed at improvement of field techniques in establishment and maintenance of cocoa, coffee, cola and shea nut. Field work is done in close association with the Soil Science Division. It includes studies on optimum plant densities; evaluation and quantification of shade; and pruning in relation to yield. There are economic studies on intercropping cocoa with food crops during establishment, and with coconuts later. The division also studies seed viability, microclimates under shade, and use of herbicides for weed control.


The entomology division does large-scale trials with insecticide and fungicide mixtures for the control of cocoa pests. It is also making population assessments of the major pests, mealy bugs and capsids, and of minor pests of cocoa in relation to farm practices and control measures. The effects of the minor pests on the plant are being monitored in case they become a major problem. The division also has projects to study the long-term effects of insecticides on the soil fauna. Very intensive investigations are being made into the biology and ecology of natural pollinators of cocoa, and the effects of insecticides on them.


The main objective of this division is to breed better planting material for farmers. The cocoa research programme includes breeding for resistance to swollen shoot virus, black pod disease and drought. The division maintains a large collection of cocoa clones to provide a broad genetic base for the breeding programme. Promising and improved progenies with good characteristics - such as high yield and disease resistance - are introduced to farmers by siting observation plots on working farms.

For coffee, the division selects breeding material from introduced Coffea robusta trees. It is also breeding hybrids of C. arabica and C. robusta, making selections from the progeny.

In association with the FAO/International Atomic Energy Agency Joint Division, induced mutation studies are being conducted for resistance to cocoa swollen shoot virus, black pod and drought in cocoa.

A germplasm collection of shea nut types is maintained and the botany of the plant is being studied. In the case of cola, work is confined to field population investigations in relation to fertility and yield.


The main objectives of the physiology division are to study the physiology of cocoa, coffee, cola, shea nut and Pentadesma butyracea (an oilseed crop), and to carry out research into growth hormones and propagation of these crops by rooted cuttings.

In the biochemistry section, the biochemistry of cocoa fermentation and effects upon flavour and quality are under study. The Phytopathology Division is collaborating in the development of cocoa swollen shoot virus purification techniques and ELISA techniques for virus identification. Utilization of cocoa by-products and analyses for pesticide residues, fats and oils, carbohydrates and phenolics are also being studied.

At present, work is under way on the growing of cocoa in marginal areas. Research is proceeding into the fatty acid composition of shea nut, and further development of ELISA techniques for the early identification of cocoa swollen shoot virus in the field.


The division is studying diseases affecting cocoa, coffee, cola and shea nut, and seeking the most economically effective control measures. The division is organized into three sections:

· The Mycology section deals with fungal diseases: black pod, dieback (associated with capsids) and a recent cause of sudden death in cocoa in the Western Region, termed white thread disease.

· The Virology sections deals with swollen shoot disease.

· The Nematology section is a new section set up to investigate the nematode infestations which cause plantain, which is used as temporary shade for young cocoa, to fail to bear after Just one crop.

Research projects include basic investigations into the epidemiology of the black pod fungus to ensure that control measures are effective. Stem cankers, caused by the fungus infecting the stem via the pedicles of diseased pods, have been shown to be a serious source of inoculum. Sanitation measures involve stripping the infected pods from the trees.

The pathology and plant breeding divisions work together in research on disease resistance.


The work of the division is organized into three sections to deal with:

· soil biochemistry,
· field trials and fertilizer investigations, and
· ecosystem studies.

The long-term objective is to work out the interactions of fertilizer requirements and overhead shade to give farmers the most economically sound recommendations.

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