Is Cocoa Cultivation compatible with Sustainable Forest Management
The project consists of increasing the production of cocoa cultivation that, as a result, will boost higher farm incomes, and is being implemented in 15 communities around the Suhuma forest reserve in the Western Region of Ghana.
Cocoa is still the number one foreign exchange earner for both Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire creating more than 2.5 million jobs in West Africa alone. However, it is also known to be one of the leading causes of deforestation in Ghana and other West African countries. The Ghanaian government has adopted the policy line to convert areas outside forest reserves to agricultural land and use forest reserves mainly for timber production and conservation purposes. Recent developments, however, have shown that cocoa farms are sprouting in forest reserves, which is mainly due to a lack of fertile lands for cocoa production as a result of unsustainable cocoa farming practices.
WWF has been working for many years to promote sustainable forest management within the Upper Guinean Moist Forest, one of WWF’s global 200 ecoregions. Through WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) programme in Ghana, WWF is encouraging forest companies to obtain FSC certification. John Bitar & Company Limited is one of companies that has been part of this process and as such, is progressing steadily towards full FSC forest management (FM) certification. According to Mr. Clement Wulnye, the Certification Manager for JCM: “this project has created a platform where we can engage communities directly in our community consultation programme”.
Solidaridad is one of the main funders of this project through West Africa Fair Fruit (WAFF), a non-profit organization that provides business services to fair trade and organic fruit processors, cooperatives, smallholders and private farms. WAFF in Ghana is coordinating various projects aimed to achieve certification of cocoa farming plantations. This is expected to make their farms more productive thus increasing the income levels of farmers.
John Bitar & Company Limited is a timber processing company with facilities in Sefwi Wiawso and Sekondi Takoradi, the Western Region of Ghana, that has firmly committed to achieve forest management (FM) certification according to the Forest Stewardship Council. One of the FSC pillars is the social component that is part of forest management operations. JCM’s contribution to this project is to support the communities of the Suhuma Forest Reserve with the certification of their cocoa plants that will help to increase their net income and create good working relations between the timber company and the forest communities.
Good for people and good for forests
This project brings two main benefits: one for people and one for forests.
Firstly, local farmers will be able to increase their income as they adopt good agricultural practices and benefit from improved forests because encroachment and the establishment of plantations in forest reserves will disappear.
Mr. Kwame Amanful, a farmer from Kofikrom in the Akontombra District of the Western Region who owns a three hectare cocoa plantation: “Now I see a lot of progress on my farm, I spend less money on pesticides and fertilizers after I received training on good agricultural practices”.
Mr. Festus Kumah of Asantekrom also from the Akontrombra District: “I have been taught how to prune my trees which has reduced the incidence of black pod disease; even though there are few pods , I am certain to harvest all of them.
Until recently, trees on cocoa farms in Ghana were harvested by loggers who paid very little or sometimes even didn´t offer any compensation to local cocoa farmers. So a strong motivation to plant or maintain trees on the farms wasn’t there. However, a newly adopted regulation in Ghana now gives ownership to the one who plants and nurtures the trees. This project therefore perfectly fits with the regulation and the potential benefits it will bring through education. Furthermore, farmers are encouraged to plant at least 18 trees for each hectare of cocoa stand.
Mr. Kwame Apau Blay, the WWF/WAFF Officer in charge of this project: farmers have now agreed to plant shade trees on their farms – a practice which first faced fierce opposition. Now, trees that already exist on the farm are left uncut to provide shade, pesticide containers are no longer washed in streams or rivers, and a buffer zone (between 5 – 10 m depending on size of stream) is left for new planting sites.
Special tree species are selected to maintain the forest biodiversity and to improve soil nutrient levels, soil fertility hence soil productivity. Finally, through this educational project, farmers will get their plantations certified, achieve higher cocoa yield and eventually prevent forest encroachment.
Depending on the further successful outcome and funding opportunities, this project will be expanded to other areas within the Guinean Moist Forest Ecozone.
Glen Asomaning, WWF West Africa Forest Programme Office for more information