Cocoa Gets a Sustainable Boost from Climate-Smart Farming

Ghana is one of the largest producers of cocoa in the world, second only to the Ivory Coast, but its success is a mixed blessing. Cocoa production contributes to deforestation, a phenomenon that deprives Ghanaians of much of their forest cover and increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That’s bad news for the environment and the economy, but there is a solution.

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF), in cooperation with the World Bank, is providing $30 million to support agroforestry and sustainable forestry in Ghana. A multifaceted project, called ENFAL (Enhancing Natural Forest and Agroforest Landscapes) is being funded through CIF’s Forest Investment Program to teach climate-smart cocoa farming, improve tree ownership policies, and introduce high quality seeds to the farmers. The project also introduces inclusive management and benefit-sharing models and develops viable alternative livelihoods for local communities.

For 26-year old Kenneth Adjeh Yeboah, the thrill of completing his education was quickly replaced by frustration with the lack of suitable job opportunities in his home town of Kumasi. He seriously contemplated immigration to Europe.

“I was willing to go all in [to get to Spain], even though I was aware of the dangers,” said Kenneth.

Then a friend convinced him to try an agricultural training program run in Kumasi by ENFAL. Today, Kenneth is fully enrolled and well on his way to becoming a cocoa farmer. Instead of risking his life to emigrate, he is staying at home where his prospects are solid.

One of the most important lessons that cocoa farmers are learning from ENFAL-provided training is that the shift from traditional shaded to open cultivation cocoa is partially to blame for lower yields. Cocoa plants are a naturally shade-loving species that come under stress without adequate forest cover. When trees are cut down, exposed cocoa plants become more vulnerable to diseases and to the drier, hotter conditions brought about by climate change.

With the help of CIF, Ghana has integrated shade trees on 16,000 ha of cocoa farmland, increasing yields and providing a future source of income from timber.

“Because of CIF, we now grow forests that are not only for timber production, but that are also good for our people,” said Prof. Paul Bosu, head of the Improvement and Productivity Division of the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana.

CIF’s ENFAL is also working to reduce gender-based exclusion. By introducing a new shade tree tenure policy allowing all cocoa farmers, male or female, to own the valuable trees, women, who provide half the labor on small-holder cocoa farms, can make a decent living. As of 2016, 39% of this policies’ direct beneficiaries were women and the target of 49% is well within grasp.

As part of its efforts, ENFAL obtained cocoa seeds from around the world and tested them to identify the ones that work best in Ghana. In Kumasi, they established a nursery from which farmers can obtain those seeds to help make Ghanaian chocolate more competitive on the world market.

One of the beneficiaries of CIF’s project is Martha Agyekumwaa. As a retiree, her income was not enough to make ends meet. Through ENFAL, Martha learned sustainable farming practices and now runs a seedling business.

By offering training, helping to implement new policies, and providing practical assistance to people like Martha and Kenneth, CIF is cultivating sustainable livelihoods for thousands of cocoa farmers as well as protecting the country’s forests from devastation. While it may take a few years for the environment to reap the benefits of reforestation initiatives, the impact on Ghanaians is already clear.


Reduced deforestation

Higher crop yields

Increased revenue from cocoa

Boosted income from shade tree timber

Increased woman-owned shade trees

Improved biodiversity conservation

Reduced pesticide use

Decreased migration

Kumasi Ghana

  • 2,000

    direct beneficiaries (2017)
  • 39

    percent beneficiaries women (2017)
  • 87,500

    total targeted beneficiaries
  • 18

    government institutions provided with capacity building
  • 21

    percent of worldwide cocoa produced in Ghana
  • 2

    percent annual deforestation rate

“Because of CIF, we grow forests not only for timber, but also for the good of our people.”

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