Ghanaian cocoa farmers set to increase productivity after gaining ownership of timber trees

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

WCF said incorporating more shade on cocoa farms will improve productivity. Pic: Divine Chocolate
WCF said incorporating more shade on cocoa farms will improve productivity. Pic: Divine Chocolate
Cocoa farmers in Ghana are now allowed to register the ownership of timber trees on their farms for the first time through their local government.

The decision came about one year after several organizations in the chocolate, cocoa and agricultural sectors, including the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and Sustainable Food Lab, worked with the Ghanaian government on tackling climate change.

Ethan Budiansky, WCF’s environment director, said this is important to conserve forests and diversify income sources for cocoa farmers in Ghana, because they can earn additional revenues by selling their trees to timber companies.

The extra income can also be used to rehabilitate aged cocoa trees, he said.

Budiansky noted timber trees in Ghana were previously controlled by the state, and cocoa farmers often suffered from illegal logging on their farms.

“There was never a system in place for Ghanaian farmers to own and benefit from the trees on their land,”​ Budiansky said.

“Now they have the opportunity to replant the deforested areas as well.”

Improving productivity

Budiansky said West African countries including Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire produce 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, yet cocoa in this region is often “monocropped with little to no shade.”

“Incorporating more shades on the cocoa farms will provide environmental benefits but also productivity.

“With climate change now threatening cocoa farms, forests and shade trees can positively affect local climatic conditions by promoting cooler temperatures, keeping moisture in the air and the soil, and helping maintain soil fertility,”​ said Budiansky.

“Trees also help improve biodiversity by creating a friendly environment for birds and cocoa-pollinating insects,”​ he added. “Different tree species also serve as an obstacle for pests that often spread diseases between cocoa trees.”

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