A national action plan for the implementation of initiatives to restore degraded forests and improve cocoa production has been launched in Accra.
Dubbed the Ghana Cocoa and Forest Initiative, the 45-page document highlights commitments between the government and industry players to take specific steps towards sustainable cocoa production while preserving forest resources.
The plan thrives on three thematic areas – forest protection and restoration, sustainable production of cocoa and providing safeguarding livelihood of farmers, as well as community engagement and social inclusion.
Under the forest protection and restoration component, maps of cocoa lands and forest reserves are expected to be developed to guide the use of the forest.
In addition, a national register of cocoa farmers will be established for effective traceability of activities along the cocoa value chain.
The sustainable cocoa production aspect of the plan deals with the adoption of modern technology and methodology to increase cocoa production on limited land space.
With the community engagement and social inclusion model, emphasis will be placed on the sharing of relevant information, consultation and participation of cocoa farmers in issues that have an impact on them.
The initiative is being implemented by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, as well as the Forestry Commission and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
The first phase of the project is to be implemented from 2018 to 2020, with the second phase expected to be carried out from 2021 to 2043.
A national event was held in Accra yesterday to launch the document at which key stakeholders were drawn from government agencies, the private sector and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the cocoa and forest sectors committed to the initiative.
While the stakeholder ministries will have oversight responsibility of the joint framework, the Forestry Commission and COCOBOD will directly be involved in the implementation of forest protection and sustainable cocoa production components respectively.
About 28 companies in the cocoa value chain have already been brought on board the project with many others expected to commit to the implementation plan.
A deputy minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of forestry, Mr Benito Owusu Bio, described the document as a major step towards addressing the challenges facing the cocoa and forest sectors.
He urged both public and private sector actors to play their parts to ensure that the implementation plan was successfully carried through.
“We call on all relevant stakeholders to buy into this initiative to help curb illegal activities such as illegal mining, illicit lumbering, indiscriminate activities of chainsaw operators, so that we can protect our forests,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, called on the private sector to support the government to address the challenges in the forest sector.
He said the national implementation plan would help to guard against the destruction of forest reserves and address conflicts between forestry officials and cocoa farmers.
For his part, the CEO of COCOBOD, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, said the initiative was timely and would help the country to have a sustainable cocoa industry.
He said COCOBOD would remain focused on empowering smallholder farmers to increase their production by adopting the appropriate technology and modern methods of production.