Cocoa is crucial to Ghana’s economy, but is also a significant driver of deforestation. The Ghana National REDD+ Strategy identifies agricultural expansion to be responsible for at least 50 per cent of deforestation, with cocoa a major contributor. The forest loss is damaging cocoa production itself, as local forests are key to maintaining rainfall and soil and water quality. Ghanaian cocoa farms are aging and becoming less productive, further exacerbating the risk to remaining forests as farmers expand outwards to find new productive areas to farm. Farmers themselves – who are largely smallholders, working on farms from 1-5 acres – suffer from low and volatile cocoa prices, with most living far below the United Nations extreme poverty line of US$1.90 per day.
Poverty and child labour in the cocoa sector have become issues of international concern – as has, more recently, deforestation. A number of voluntary initiatives have been launched to tackle these problems – but there are a host of deeper governance issues that must be addressed for these initiatives to make an impact.
Tropenbos International, Tropenbos Ghana, Fern, EcoCare Ghana, and Forest Watch Ghana developed a briefing note, to provoke a conversation around how producer and consumer countries, including the EU, could use legally-binding schemes to tackle these governance issues. In so doing, the paper draws lessons from Ghana’s on-going Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process, which has been successfully tackling governance problems in the timber sector for some years. In particular it explores how a bilateral partnership agreement – one of the options identified as having “high” impact by the 2018 European Commission feasibility study on agricultural deforestation—between Ghana and European countries could help encourage reform in the cocoa sector. The briefing was presented during the Amsterdam Declaration 2018 in Paris (27 June 2018).