The Rainforest Alliance has long been a leader in developing climate-smart agriculture solutions—and in sharing those solutions with farmers all over the world. Now, thanks to an exciting project that joins science, impact investing, and our well-honed expertise in climate-smart agriculture, the Rainforest Alliance has created, in collaboration with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), science-based training materials tailored to the climate risks of specific cocoa-growing regions. With the help of advanced climate modeling by science organization CIAT, the Rainforest Alliance has outlined pathways farmers can follow to build resilience to future climate impacts.
Rainforest Alliance field staff, under the leadership of our West Africa senior manager Christian Mensah, have already begun to use these materials in and around five natural reserves in Ghana’s Sui River landscape, a major cocoa-growing area in the Western Region. Here, a new four-year, DFID-funded Partnership for Forests (P4F) project—a joint effort with Olam International that aims to catalyze investments in forests and sustainable land use—builds on the Rainforest Alliance’s successful collaboration with cocoa farmers in the nearby Juabeso-Bia area. Lead farmers in the Sui River landscape are now working with the new climate-smart manuals.*
Sharing climate-smart strategies is especially urgent in Ghana, where 800,000 farming families depend on cocoa production to live (Ghana is the world’s second largest producer of cocoa beans). While research shows that most of Ghana’s cocoa production can be sustained into the 2050s with a well-directed climate adaptation plan, the initial changes a farmer must make to become climate-resilient can be costly. For this reason, CCAFS partner Root Capital, a finance organization dedicated to growing rural prosperity, plans to support farmers in making the initial outlay toward long-term climate resilience.
“Climate-smart agriculture is not a one-size-fits-all approach—a farmer dealing with increasing floods, for example, will employ different practices from one facing water shortages,” said Martin Noponen, the Rainforest Alliance climate director. These new materials help farmers better prioritize and tailor various practices for their particular locations. Noponen added that the new materials are available to anyone online, making them potent tools for scaling up transformation in cocoa-growing landscapes around the world.
WFC is already sharing the manuals with its company-members. Sander Muilerman, Program Manager of Climate Smart Cocoa in West Africa for WCF, said, “The training materials finally allow cocoa sector actors, trainers, and farmers to make informed decisions on how to concretely engage in building resilience at the farm level. At the same time they are not prescriptive and take into consideration individual choice and investment capacity.”
Conserving forests is part and parcel of building climate resilience, as forests absorb emissions that contribute to climate change. In an exciting development, the Ghanaian government, along with dozens of cocoa companies, recognized the critical need to protect forests in March 2017 when they signed on to the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), which aims to end deforestation in the cocoa supply chain. CFI followed with a joint framework for action that includes climate-smart agriculture—providing an excellent foundation for the use of the new materials.
With the Ghanaian government’s unambiguous commitment to stopping deforestation in the national cocoa supply chain, the communities of Juabeso-Bia, and the 71 communities in the Sui River landscape, are now better positioned to help slow climate change—and protect their families’ livelihoods—well into the future.
*The materials were created under the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) program, a consortium that includes the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Sustainable Food Lab, Root Capital, and the Rainforest Alliance.