A Forest of Possibilities

December 10, 2021

Empowering communities to restore and conserve forests for people and planet

Grace Botwe, a Cocoa Farmer. Photos: Priscilla Mawuena Adjeidu/UNDPGhana

“This forest restoration initiative has given us access to food all year round. When cocoa is out of season, we rely on our plantain and vegetable harvest, Grace Botwe, a cocoa farmer from Akwaduro, in the Asunafo North Municipal in the Ahafo Region of Ghana narrated. 

Grace has been farming for more than 30 years and she is one of the over 200 farmers working on a forest restoration initiative to restore degraded areas in the Ayum Forest Reserve. Like many forests, the Ayum Forest Reserve in the Asunafo North Municipal Assembly was gradually losing its value and beautiful vegetation because of the multiplying human activities like bush burning, deforestation and illegal activities.

To scale up efforts to restore degraded forest reserves like the Ayum Forest Reserve and contribute to Ghana's climate action efforts, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with Cocobod, Forestry Commission, and Mondelēz International’s cocoa sustainability programme: Cocoa Life (through funding and technical support) are working with farmers to restore degraded forests. 

For the farmers, the initiative to revamp their forest reserve is very fulfilling as they are contributing to the change they want to see and making gains out of it.

“Being part of this initiative brings me so much fulfilment. I am happy to be part of the community members contributing to the restoration of our once degraded forest”, Naomi Nkansah, a 34-year-old farmer and beneficiary of the forest restoration project stated.

Naomi Nkansah, one of the farmers.

The Forest Restoration initiative is being implemented using the Modified Tungya System (MTS) - where farmers are given access to degraded forest reserve land for the planting of economic trees. They are allowed to integrate the tree planting with selected food crops until tree canopy closure. The MTS has become a legally binding land lease arrangement in which farmers are considered co-owners of the plantations with the Forestry Commission and are entitled to the MTS plots till the tree become mature. Apart from its environmental benefits, the MTS also serves as an additional income generation activity for the participating farmers.

The forest restoration project is a scaled-up of activities under the third intervention area of the Cocoa Life Programme. The programme is to incentivize cocoa farmers to adopt environmentally sustainable production practices and to promote resilient and thriving communities with additional livelihoods options.

The project presents vast opportunities due to the market and economic value of the harvested crops. 

A project beneficiary with harvested crops (okro) from her forest farm.

A project beneficiary proudly showing cocoa in his farm integrated with trees.

“I come all the way from Kumasi to purchase my plantain, which I sell at both Takoradi or sometimes in Kumasi market. We usually make profits and because it is straight from the farms, the plantains and cocoyams we buy from here are always fresh”, Dora Ansah, a market woman revealed.

Dora Ansah, the market woman loading trucks of plantain for the market.

Mr. Owusu Apau, the Society Manager of the Cocoa Cooperative Farmers’ Society at the Akwaduro commended the formation of farmer groups as part of activities of the initiative to promote farmer organization and coordination.

Mr Owusu Apau, Manager at the Akwadwo Farmers Union.

Re-greening the planet will take many forms. It will involve restoring degraded forests through reforestation and enhancing tree cover in agricultural landscapes. In the end, no effort is too small to help the world achieve the climate action agenda for people and the planet.

A team from Cocobod, Forestry Commission and UNDP on a monitoring visit.

The restored Ayum Forest Reserve integrated with food crops - using the Modified Tungya System.