In Ghana, Cocoa has historically been a key cash crop and a major source of export and financial earnings. The cocoa industry has played a crucial role in the economic development of the country by contributing significantly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Cocoa sector is one of the critical sectors of the Ghanaian economy and source of livelihood for over a million farmers. Ghana is the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, and exports about 800,000 metric tons accounting for over 9% of the country’s GPD.
As one of country’s key agricultural crop, cocoa rakes in an estimated $1.5 billion in foreign exchange yearly, while the sector employs about 2 million people including more than 720,000 cocoa farm owners.
It is also a very important crop because it provides food, income, employment, industrial raw material and resources for poverty reduction. Besides the provision of livelihood for millions of smallholder farmers, cocoa also provides raw material for the multibillion global chocolate industry. Therefore, the maintenance of cocoa to ensure continuous production and supply is of international concern.
In spite of the gains being derived from the sector over the decades, environmentalists have cautioned against the devastating effect of climate change, emphasizing the need for prudent adaptation measures to be put in place to mitigate the situation.
Climate change as a threat
Climate change leads to increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, changes in extreme weather conditions, and reductions in water availability – all resulting in reduction of agricultural productivity.
Climate change, the environmentalists say, is possibly the greatest contemporary threat to agriculture and the livelihood of most people who live and work on land. It is one of the worst environmental, social and economic threats the world has ever faced.
The effects, per their analysis, are rather more rapid than previously expected, with serious devastating impacts, especially, on developing countries that are particularly vulnerable because of their relatively high dependence on natural resources, and their limited capacity to adapt to a changing climate.
The cocoa tree is susceptible to the vagaries of climate, a fact which manifests in outbreak of pests and diseases and their pattern, loss of pods and early ripening of young pods, among others.
The Cocoa farmer and climate change mitigation
Cocoa farmers are already seeing the impacts of climate change and if action is not taken current cocoa-producing regions may no longer be suitable for cocoa production in the next 30 years.
To this effect, Cocoa farmers have started using coping and adaptation strategies to offset the effects of climate change on their production.
Speaking to Public Agenda on how he mitigates the impact of climate change on his farm, Mr Abdul Salam Yakubu, a cocoa farmer at Darmang in the Nsawam- Adoagyiri District in the Eastern Region said he uses what he referred to as ‘Shade management strategy’ to minimize the effect of climate change. Mr Yakubu explained that he maintained adequate number of trees required in an acre of farm i.e. five to eight trees as well as adequate pruning of branches.
That, according to him, was adopted through some tutorials given to him by some cocoa extension workers on excessive tree removal.
Beside this strategy, he appeared not to have any other knowledge on mitigating the effect of Climate change.
However, he used the occasion to appeal to the government to send more extension officers to their farms to educate them more on the effect of climate change and other adaptation measure to ensure that they increased productivity.
“I only have limited knowledge on climate change and its consequences on our farms.., so we’ll need more extension officers on our farms to educate us on what to do in order to mitigate the effect of climate change,” he said.
Adaptation as key to consolidate gains
Mr Mr Emmanuel Antwi, Assistant District Manager, Begoro Forest District believes that the gains in the cocoa sector can be sustained if concerted effort is put in place to tackle the threat of climate change.
According to Mr Antwi, “Climate change is happening and the earlier we acknowledge and deal with it, the better for us. You and I can attest that the humidity in the atmosphere has reduced and indirectly it is affecting all plants and even human being as a whole .The temperature is very hot and we can say the cocoa tree is also affected.”
He added that, “The best way is to help incorporate the trees to serve as umbrella to block the excessive radiation from the sun.”
Mr Josephus Bannor, Deputy Director at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture office in Atewa in the Eastern Region also emphasized the need to focus attention on tackling climate change in the cocoa sector.
He told Public Agenda, “Previously, we used to have a lot of trees on our cocoa farms. That is not the case anymore. It is about time we returned to those times because that is how we can get adequate rains on the fields.”
He also advised farmers to change their old ways of farming and adopt modern methods of farming in order to boost production.
Speaking to journalists at a meeting on Cocoa advocacy recently organized by Send-Ghana, a policy research and advocacy civil society organization in collaboration with the Ghana Agriculture and Rural Development Journalists Association in Accra, Ms Sandra Kwabea Sarkwah, a Project Officer at Send-Ghana urged government to pay critical attention to the cocoa sector.
CSOs advocacy action points
Ms Sarkwah explained that SEND – Ghana is implementing a project Titled: ‘Influencing cocoa sector policies and practices through active participation of civil society organizations (CSOs), farmer organizations and media for sustainable productivity, and to implement a living income for cocoa farmers and families.’
The project aims at ensuring that cocoa farmer organizations, CSOs and the media influence sustainable policies, programmes and practices in the cocoa sector. The project also seeks to contribute to the development of strategies and activities by various stakeholders in the cocoa value chain to implement and sustain a living income for cocoa farmers’ families, while strengthening the capacity of cocoa farmer organizations, CSOs and the media to monitor and advocate for improved policies and practices in the cocoa sector.
By Mohammed Suleman