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Project Name: Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into Cocoa Production Landscape in Southwest Ghana

Project summary:

The overall goal of the project is to mainstream biodiversity conservation into cocoa production landscape around the Bia Conservation Area in Southwest Ghana. Cocoa production is a major economic activity and land use in the Guinean Forests of the West Africa hotspot, one of the world’s 25 biologically richest and most endangered terrestrial regions. Forest ecosystems here harbor more than half of all mammal species found in Africa.

Cocoa farms constitute a threat to the region’s globally significant biodiversity but also offer an opportunity to conserve it. The scale of the cocoa production sector and the global importance of the biodiversity in cocoa production landscapes justify the project intervention.

The Government of Ghana has recognized the threats to the cocoa industry and the present focus of the national cocoa policy is to increase production in existing plantations by introducing better agronomic practices and rehabilitating old farms. The commitment is also consistent with Ghana’s National Biodiversity Strategy, which places a strong emphasis on conserving the remaining forest cover. With an average yield of only 250-300 kg/hectare in Ghanaian cocoa farms, there is a sizeable potential for increased per-area yields and reduce the need for cocoa expansion.

This project address barriers to wide-scale sustainable cocoa production at three levels: the market level, the national level, and the local level. At the market level, it will work with cocoa traders to support farmer’s efforts to adopt sustainable practices and increase their understanding of the relationship between biodiversity conservation and productivity. At the national level, the project will promote certification models that provide incentives for biodiversity-conserving and productive agroforestry farm systems. At the local level, it will collaborate with and support farmers to adopt best practices that enhance the ecological integrity of farms and connect forest fragment in the landscape while at the same time improving farm productivity.

Prior to initiation of the campaign, CA produced a baseline report on the socioeconomic and environmental status of the target area, using existing studies and data gathered through a ground confirmation survey. Next, CA implemented a campaign to raise awareness among communities in the target area around the connections between agriculture, biodiversity loss, water availability, and climate change, and educate farmers about their roles as ecosystem managers. These messages were spread through radio programs, presentations, community meetings, and open discussions.

CA also produced a manual documenting best practices for training farmers on sustainable cocoa production. The training included subjects like Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Shade Management, Biodiversity Conservation, Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC), Certification and Cocoa as Business. The manual was field tested in a training for five facilitators. Facilitators then used the manual to train 59 literate farmers, twelve of whom were women, from twelve communities in the area.

CA performed an economic assessment of premiums for the adoption of Rainforest Alliance certification by Bia farmers, and then held meetings with producers, Rainforest Alliance, and potential buyers to prepare farmers for certification and sale of certified cocoa. CA also developed a community-based monitoring protocol to assess the impacts of their campaign, and the ability and willingness of farmers to adopt recommended practices. A draft database was created to store data generated from project monitoring efforts.

At press time, CA was closing in on partnerships with buyers, traders and local processing plants, and looking toward setting up a marketing system. Farmers have already made changes in their shade and labor management, and seen resulting improvements in ecological health and reduced incidence of pests and diseases. CA’s campaign of education and the implementation of data collection has set a solid foundation for continued promotion of biodiversity-friendly cocoa production models for years to come.


Success stories