Tree Power: Reforestation on Degraded Cocoa Farms in Ghana

Ghana is the second largest cocoa producer in the world—but unfortunately, cocoa production is a major driver of deforestation in this country. In the Juaboso-Bia district, only 8 percent of total land cover remains open or closed canopy forest.

But over the course of the last year, the Rainforest Alliance (with support from Toyota Motor Corporation’s Environmental Grant Program), worked with farmers in the Juaboso-Bia landscape to plant more than 15,000 native shade trees, thereby restoring 260 hectares (642 acres) of degraded land on cocoa farms. Toyota’s support meant that the participating farms, all of which were Rainforest Alliance Certified™, could stay on track with certification (those new to certification have an allotted time to complete tree-planting requirements). On-farm shade trees not only improve cocoa yields, but also increase carbon stocks and help to mitigate climate change, which has hit this landscape in Ghana hard.

Cocoa farmers in Ghana

Cocoa farmers in Ghana at a Rainforest Alliance training event

As part of this exciting project, which aimed to conserve biodiversity and boost climate resilience, the Rainforest Alliance also worked with 650 farmers across the district to develop a user-friendly guide to implementing the 2017 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. Lead farmers from 20 communities conducted trainings on a total of 100 pilot farms, among other activities.

One participating cocoa farmer, Ophelia Kesse, said the trainings helped her understand that the native trees she planted are more tolerant of local weather and soil conditions than non-native trees, and that they enhance local biodiversity. She is happy to know that her tree-planting efforts will benefit future generations.

Ghanian cocoa farmer drying cocoa beans

Ghanian cocoa farmer drying cocoa beans

The Rainforest Alliance’s senior associate, Anthony Adom, who led the project, says the support of the government has been key in the recent restoration efforts. “The Ghanaian government’s clear and unambiguous commitment to undertake massive forest plantations has created a favorable environment for tree-planting projects,” he said. “The government also recently began to recognize ownership of non-cocoa trees on cocoa farms for the first time, and this also encourages investment in tree-planting.”

The Rainforest Alliance hopes to apply this successful training model in the Sewfwi Wiawso, Bodi, and Akontombra Districts of Western Ghana in the future.

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