With only two harvests a year, how does a cocoa farmer manage financially in the off-season? How does that farmer feed his or her family when there is no cocoa to sell?
The Rainforest Alliance has witnessed cocoa farming communities throughout West Africa facing this daily reality. Committed to tackling the three pillars of sustainability—environmental, social, and economic—through its certification program, the Rainforest Alliance has developed community-based forest enterprises to help forest communities generate income and employment while supporting the sustainable management of their forest resources.
In the Juabeso-Bia Landscape in Ghana, the Rainforest Alliance has introduced beekeeping as an alternative to improve living standards for cocoa farmers and their families. Forty farmers received training, five hives each, and harvesting and processing equipment. During the first harvest year, the venture achieved 92 percent hive colonization, with 2,100 pounds of honey harvested. This earned the farmers USD $3,731—a significant figure when, on average, a cocoa farmer earns approximately $1,460 each year.
Participating farmer Seth Antwi explained that the beekeeping enterprise had brought great relief and benefits to the community. In addition to the monetary gains, it has also created job opportunities. Seth explained, "With the introduction of the beekeeping enterprise, the crude method of harvesting honey from the wild—which normally results in the elimination of the bees that are crucial for the pollination of our cocoa trees—has ceased, and will hopefully result in a cocoa higher yield. The risk of bush fires in the landscape has also been reduced, as fires are now not be used to harvest honey from the wild."
"I harvested 150 pounds from my apiary, sold 133 pounds for USD $1,020, gave four pounds to friends, and kept 13 pounds for my family’s breakfast, especially for the children. I have increased the number of hives, and hopefully my income will be enhanced in the next harvesting seasons, which will help me further my children’s education in higher institutions. My future is bright if I continue to expand my apiary, since there is a potential market for honey.”
In an attempt to harness the sustainability potential of the apiaries and expand it to a landscape-based project, the beekeepers’ group has formed a business and is being coached by the Business Advisory Centre, which helps small businesses sharpen entrepreneurship and management skills. Harvests continue to look promising, and the group is planning to add to its portfolio by producing beeswax and propolis to the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries.