Cocoa farmers in Ghana can now turn to sustainable, climate smart farming practices to boost cocoa production in the country, thanks to their increased understanding of its benefits. Cocoa, which is the main source of income for more than 800,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana. It is also a major foreign exchange earner for the country.
For most farmers, expanding cocoa farms means clearing forests. Lack of incentives and understanding of smarter ways to incorporate trees in cocoa farms result in several farmers removing trees on their cocoa farms. This practice has been one of the main contributors to the loss of more than 135,000 hectares of forests each year.
“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.
The United Nations Development Programme (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 implementation of the three-year project “Environmental Sustainability and Policy for Cocoa Production in Ghana” “ESP project”, more than 9,600 smallholder farmers have been incentivized to adopt sound farming practices that reduce climate change and improve environmental quality.
This has occurred largely through training of cocoa farmers and community extension agents 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 Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA) involving 36 communities in the Asunafo North Municipality to promote community rights to manage and benefit from natural resources.
The project has distributed more than 787,000 economic tree seedlings to farmers and rehabilitated 8,600 hectares of forests along waterways and protected areas. Field monitoring records have shown a progressive planting success. This has motivated farmers to plant more trees, which 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.
“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 economic tree seedlings he received under the project. He looks forward to a good return on his hard work. “Thanks to UNDP and COCOBOD, I can benefit from my trees and expect increased cocoa yield through 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.