Friday, 20 December 2013

Ghana's climate-smart cocoa

Cocoa drying in the Juabeso district, Ghana/Credit: Veronique Mistiaen

I recently went to Ghana to look at how cocoa farmers were adapting to and fighting the impacts of climate change.

I loved that assignment because Ghana is one of my favourite countries. I am also crazy about chocolate and worry about not being able to get my daily fix. I had read a report by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which predicted that increasing temperatures will lead to massive declines in cocoa production by 2030 in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which produce more than half of the world’s cocoa. With China and India developing an appetite for chocolate, the demand for cocoa might then outweigh the supply.
I have looked at commoditie across Africa and Asia in the past and reported on efforts to improve production while giving good wages and living conditions to  farmers and protect the environment. But the project I visited in Western Ghana was different because it focused not only on the farms, but on the whole landscape, the fallow lands and the forests.

Once, lush forests covered most of the country - the green of the Ghanaian flag represents them - but over the past decades, they have been cut to make space for more cocoa. Ghana is now the country with the fastest deforestation rate in the world.
The loss of forests compromises the region’s biodiversity, but also exacerbates the impact of climate change.  The country’s temperatures are slowly rising - and cocoa trees are now under threat.  
In the Juabeso/Bia district, international environmental organization Rainforest Alliance (RA) and Olam International Ltd have teamed up to help farmers produce what they believe is the first “climate-smart" cocoa in the world.  The $1 million three-year pilot project provides farmers in 36 communities with a combination of proven tools and innovative practices for land management and conservation, so that they can help reduce deforestation and climate change and at the same time earn a sustainable livelihood.
Cocoa farmers at a RA training session in Eteso, Ghana/Credit: Veronique Mistiaen

“In order to insure there is a future for cocoa production, you need an environment that supports cocoa, otherwise cocoa is dead,” says Atsu Titiati, RA project director in Ghana.
Read my piece for New Agriculturist here and Economist’s Baobab blog here.

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