Improving livelihoods of resource-poor coconut smallholder farmers threatened by an emerging lethal yellowing disease of coconut in the coastal region of Côte d’Ivoire.
Lethal Yellowing (LY)-type diseases caused by phytoplasmas are the major threat for the global coconut productivity. Côte d’Ivoire is the top African country exporting coconut oil, the main source of income for the coastal communities, and hosts the multi-site International Coconut Genebank for Africa and the Indian Ocean. Canadian and Ivorian scientists have recently confirmed that the emerging Côte d’Ivoire LY-type (CILY) outbreak, currently affecting more than 7000 ha of coconut in the Grand-Lahou region, is associated with the Cape St. Paul Wilt phytoplasma strain that has destroyed circa one million coconut palms in Ghana in the last 30 years. Currently no information is available in Côte d’Ivoire about the disease. The present proposal is directed toward linking natural and social scientists to promote understanding and control of this outbreak. Field and lab-based studies are proposed in Côte d’Ivoire with Ghanaian assistance, guided by Canadian expertise. We plan to deploy and, where necessary, produce information, diagnostics, and local resistant/tolerant cultivars needed for effective detection and control of CILY phytoplasma. These developments will support quarantine surveillance, germplasm certification and breeding programs. Programs will be implemented through capacity building approaches involving authorities, policy makers, stakeholders and farmers, with emphasis on the needs to women playing a critical social role in coconut production. These efforts are needed to secure the region’s most important source of nutrition in the form of a sustained an deficient coconut industry, and to improve livelihoods of rural coconut farmers in resource-poor coastal areas.