Cocoa farmers in selected production districts in Ghana are accessing support in natural resource management for efficient and sustainable cocoa production.

The ‘Cocoa Eco Project’ is a pilot intervention aimed at limiting the encroachment of cocoa plantations onto forest lands and conservation of biodiversity.

SNV Ghana is partnering the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union to create environmental awareness among cocoa farmers, especially on issues of land degradation and deforestation.

“We are expecting that at the end of the project cycle, we would be able to partner other organizations to scale-up to cover other districts in promoting increased productivity by way of adapting modern production methods in the cocoa sector”, says Ernest Adzim, Associate Advisor at SNV Ghana.

The 30-month project, covering ten cocoa growing districts, is to increase income levels and improve livelihood of targeted farmers.

Cocoa farming is one of the dominant land use activities in Ghana with an estimated cultivation area of over 1.6 million hectares, according to the World Bank.

Cocoa production has been identified as one of the sectors that will seriously be hit by climate change.

Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world, but productivity is among the lowest in the world – average yield is 330kg per hectare, compared to Ivory Coast’s 580kg.

Increasing production demands expansion of area under cultivation, with the resultant effect of converting forests to farming systems which leads to decline in carbon stocks.

Isaac Boah, an Internal Control Officer with Kuapa Kokoo Limited, acknowledges the importance of planting cocoa with trees, “in order to prevent direct sunlight from going down to the soil”.

The Cocoa Eco Project will expose the farmers to interventions in climate mitigation and adaptation to ensure sustainable cocoa production.

“The effect of climate change is real”, stated Mr. Adzim. “You talk to the farmers from the north to the middle-belt to the south, they see this effect in terms of disease incidence, in terms of rainfall pattern, in terms of pest and planting times”.

Agronomic activities to be introduced under the intervention, according to him, include “soil fertility improvement by way of introducing shade into cocoa plantations and also generating income by planting trees”. The trees will serve two purposes – provide source of energy by way of fuel wood as well as introducing nitrogen and other nutrients that cocoa may need in the soil.

An estimated 800,000 farm household depends on the cocoa sector for the primary livelihood.

Climate scientists at the Colombia-based International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have predicted that the expected increasing temperatures will lead to massive declines in cocoa production in Ghana and other cocoa-growing areas in West Africa by 2030.