How agroecology can help build dynamic cocoa agroforests in Ghana


Authors: Eric Mensah Kumeh

General - 2024

ISSUE No.: 62


Language: English


Ghana's once-diverse cocoa-forest landscapes have been replaced by monoculture cocoa farms, causing a host of social, ecological and economic problems. A case study of local innovation in Ghana's Juabeso/Bia Landscape (JBL) demonstrates how agroecological principles can restore these landscapes, revive biodiversity, enable food security and empower cocoa farmers.

The promotion of full-sun cocoa cultivation, tenure insecurity and food insecurity, however, are currently hindering the uptake of cocoa agroforestry. Full-sun cocoa was popularised by an ill-advised policy that pushed farmers to remove old-growth trees, reducing resilience and sustainability. Tenure insecurity is a result of the 1962 Concessions Act, which transferred tree rights to the state, who empowered private logging companies, discouraging farmers from maintaining old-growth trees on their increasingly exploited cocoa farms. Food insecurity is also a pressing issue, as cocoa-focused agricultural programmes neglect long-term food production, forcing farmers to encroach on forest reserves for food, further contributing to biodiversity loss.

In comparison, agroecology aims to increase overall system resilience and restore the balance between productivity and sustainability, providing diverse social, economic and environmental benefits over the long term. A farmer in the case study implemented dynamic cocoa agroforestry, and has experienced improved nutrient cycling, biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration, and reduced risk of fire, pests and disease. To encourage more farmers to adopt agroecology, issues of limited empirical information, inadequate investment, policy shortcomings and the threat of illegal mining must be overcome. This could be facilitated by introducing policy reforms, investing in farmer programmes, establishing market incentives and giving farmers control over their trees; by means of a collaborative effort between policymakers, researchers, extension services, NGOs and the private sector. Their long-term commitment to agroecology will ensure resilience, sustainability, and prosperity in Ghana's cocoa sector. 

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