Environmentally friendly practices boost cocoa production in Ghana

farmer in Ghana
Trees shield the cocoa plants from excessive sunlight and keep the soil moist during dry seasons. Photo: Bosman Owusu/UNDP Ghana

Cocoa, the main source of income for more than 800,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana, is also a major foreign exchange earner for the country, representing 30% of total exports. Ghana is also the world’s second largest cocoa-producing country, contributing approximately 20% of the global cocoa supply.

But, for most farmers, expanding cocoa farms means clearing forests. Lack of incentives and understanding of the benefits of keeping trees for shade in cocoa farms have resulted in the loss of more than 135,000 hectares of tropical forests each year.


  • Cocoa is the main source of income for more than 800,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana
  • Close to 10,000 farmers adopted sound farming practices to help reduce climate change effects and preserve the environment
  • More than 780,000 tree seedlings were provided to rehabilitate 8,600 hectares of forests

 “I have seen over the years that this phenomenon is not only adversely impacting on cocoa production, but also affecting plant and animal life as well as water resources”, says Mr. Daniel Amponsah Gyinayeh, a cocoa farmer.

UNDP, in partnership with the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and with financial support from Mondelēz International Cocoa Life Programme, introduced farmers to environmentally friendly practices that can also boost cocoa production and rehabilitate degraded cocoa landscapes.

Through the three-year project “Environmental Sustainability and Policy for Cocoa Production in Ghana” (ESP), more than 9,600 smallholder farmers have been incentivized to adopt sound farming practices that help reduce the effects of climate change and preserve the environment.

Cocoa farmers and community agents have been trained in environmental cocoa production practices, forest laws and regulations, and community tree tenure rights.

The US$ 1.7 million initiative has also piloted the establishment of 36 Community Resource Management Areas  in the Asunafo North Municipality, the region’s largest cocoa producing area. Trees shield the cocoa plants from excessive sunlight and keep the soil moist during dry seasons. The trees also serve as carbon sinks and provide oxygen, which replenishes the environment. To address the issue of deforestation, the project has provided more than 787,000 tree seedlings to farmers, which helped rehabilitate 8,600 hectares of forests along waterways and protected areas.

 “We are happy to work with the farmers on climate smart farming practices”, says Namho Oh, a Programme Analyst at UNDP. “We hope that through this intervention we can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation and ensure increased cocoa productivity and income for farmers.”

Now, Daniel, like other farmers, is upbeat about the future. On his farm, he has planted hundreds of tree seedlings he received from the project. He looks forward to a good return on his hard work. “I can now expect an increased yield thanks to the improved farming methods,” he says.

The ESP project is also supporting Ghana’s land and tree tenure policy reforms by providing concrete policy recommendations and facilitating dialogues with the COCOBOD, Forestry Commission, and other key stakeholders.

The initiative builds on national efforts to improve Ghana’s progress on the MDG 7 establishing tree plantations and replanting degraded forests to reduce deforestation, which is estimated at 2% per annum. It also offers a good prospect for Ghana’s attainment of the new Sustainable Development Goal 15 which seeks to, among other things, help countries sustainably manage forests.

UNDP Around the world