Loc Hoa Commune, Trang Bom District, Dong Nai Province, Vietnam. Mr. Tu lives in Dong Nai Province, Vietnam and has been farming there for over 20 years. He had tried several different crops including peppers, rambutan, durian and coffee. The peppers and durian often suffered from disease and prices for rambutan were usually low. In addition to farming, he also practices traditional medicine. In 2001, a friend persuaded him to try cocoa on a small, unused part of his land. He met the Nong Lam University cocoa team, acquired some seedlings and worked with them to learn good agricultural practices.
He was enthusiastic about the new crop and achieved encouraging results. Within 14 months of planting, his trees were producing pods and a good canopy was developing. Mr. Tu’s farm was noted for being one of the best farms in the early stages of establishment.
However, he soon experienced some setbacks. Despite his efforts, the yields fell significantly and some trees almost stopped bearing pods altogether. At first the Nong Lam University cocoa team thought that it might be the result of over-use or improper use of fertilizer. He followed their instructions accordingly, but six months passed without improvement. Then, the team tried hand pollination to increase the number of pods, but that also failed to produce the desired results. Despite these challenges, Mr. Tu remained persistent and committed to growing cocoa.
Finally, the Nong Lam University team recommended introducing three newly developed clones by grafting. Previously, he had planted a few trees of each of the commercially available varieties. He completed the grafting in 2007, and once the grafts matured, his yields improved significantly. Today, each tree yields an average of 2.5 to 3 kilograms equating to 2.5 to 3 metric tons per hectare.
With income from his farm and his traditional medicine practice, he is contributing to his daughter’s education at medical school. As he gets older, he sees cocoa as a crop that is suitable to his changing lifestyle saying, “Without cocoa, I probably would have quit farming since there is no way I can take care of a farm with other crops.”
WCF thanks Nong Lam University for contributing this story.