Cocoa is the most important cash crop to both the Ghanaian economy and as the main 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.
However, not all news about this cherished crop is pleasing to the ear and sight.
Over the last ten years, specifically between 2000 and 2010, Ghana lost a total of about 820,000 hectares of her forest area at a rate of 1.4% per annum. The situation got worse as the figure jumped to a staggering 6% in 2011.
Current figures available shows that between 2012 to 2017 deforestation rate is around 2% (132,000) hectare per annum, one of the highest rates in the world after Togo and Nigeria. Much of this deforestation is due to the cherished cocoa crop: it is estimated that cocoa farming alone accounts for about 50% of all forest lost by agriculture in Ghana’s high forest zone. Forest experts have warned that Ghana’s natural forest risks being depleted in the next 10 to 20 years.
In response to these threats and after intense pressure from civil society organisations, the government of Ghana and Cote d’ivoire in November 2017, agreed to a framework for action by committing to ending deforestation in their cocoa supply chain.
The framework for action includes promoting forest protection and restoration, respecting cocoa farmer’s rights and promoting sustainable livelihoods for cocoa farmers.
To this end Friends of the Earth (FoE)-Ghana, together with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) both international and local has been supporting the ‘’Chocolate Campaign’’ led by Mighty Earth, a global campaign organisation working to protect the environment. The campaign aims to achieve Deforestation-Free Cocoa across the world.
According to group the campaign in less than a year has made significant gains in Africa and beyond, some of which include; Reforms in cocoa/chocolate companies, Producer countries act, Consumer countries wake up, Spread of agroforestry, and Reforms in the supermarket.
Reforms in cocoa/chocolate companies
Most major cocoa and chocolate companies embraced deforestation-free cocoa policies after Mighty Earth’s reports came out. Some indeed have gone beyond, to make broader cross-commodity commitment (like Cemoi, Hershey’s, and Ferrero). In less than a year, around 80% of the world cocoa/chocolate market has agreed to deforestation-free cocoa worldwide.
Producer countries act
Through the campaign, three countries: Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and most recently Colombia have so far published national plans to end deforestation in their cocoa production. Ghana for instants just revealed its big new plan to implement its cocoa commitments on July 23; Cote d’Ivoire on the other hand is said to be building a USD 1.1 billion fund to protect its forests and is also in the process of reforming a host of laws and policies to protect forests better, particularly from cocoa. Brazil, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic may also be considering committing to Deforestation-Free Cocoa with their own law/policy changes.
Consumer countries wake up.
According to reliable information, the EU Parliament will likely debate a law to clean up all cocoa coming into its borders, particularly focusing on deforestation and child labor. On July 11th there was the first-ever EU Parliamentary hearing on the issue, which was very successful.
Spread of agroforestry.
A study by the campaigners has it that there’s been some progress on pushing the cocoa industry to shift to agroforestry and away from full-sun monoculture. As much as 30% of the world’s cocoa appears to be covered now by agroforestry commitments to make cocoa a more truly “forest-friendly” commodity.
Reforms in the supermarket.
For the first time ever, major supermarkets across the globe are rallying and organizing to commit to selling only sustainable cocoa. A group of retailers led by Tesco organized this summer to embrace zero deforestation cocoa.
While Ghana can be commended for committing to end deforestation in cocoa farming, there is the need to speed up with the National Implementation Plan on the Cocoa and Forest Initiative as reserve encroachment by cocoa farmers continues unabated.
Farmers are said to be motivated by central government’s desire to increase cocoa output to a million metric tons annually as well as the political interference in law enforcement, to clear forest lands for farming.
For these and many other reasons some farmers around forest reserves are moving fast to establish new farms before the implementation plan is imposed. If the cocoa sector continues with business as usual the forest will disappear at an alarming rate. Actual works on the ground are urgently needed to reverse the declining trend in the country’s forest resources.
FoE-Ghana is therefore urging government to take a tough stance on cocoa led deforestation by equipping the Forestry Commission to increase their forest monitoring activities to prevent reserve encroachment before it happens.
Again there is the need for collaboration between the Forestry Commission and Cocobod to sensitize farmers on the effects of deforestation and also work to enforce the laws to prevent further reserve encroachment. Cocoa Farmers should be support with sustainable farming techniques so they can maintain and increase their harvest without the need to cut more forest.
Fair price is one of the most essential motivating factors to encourage high productivity and reward for hard work. It is strange, unfair, and unacceptable to say the least that the two leading cocoa producing countries: Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire that accounts for over 60% of the global cocoa output, in 2015 between them earned only 5.7 to 8 billion dollars from a chocolate market worth over 100 billion dollars and it’s upon this that I join FoE-Ghana and other campaigners to demand for fair pricing.
Cocoa farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast earns just 5% to 6% of that value. This is highly demotivating for farmers and calls for urgent action. Some farmers in the Amenfi West, Amenfi Central and Amenfi East District of the Western Region-the leading cocoa growing region in Ghana – are cutting down their cocoa farms for rubber plantations.
According to these farmers, rubber plantations are more lucrative than the cocoa farms and also working on the cocoa farm is more difficult than on the rubber plantation. This will challenge government’s determination to increase Ghana’s cocoa to a million metric tons annually. Faced with the challenges of farmers converting their cocoa farms to rubber plantations, cocoa farm expansion into forest reserves and encouraging the Ghanaian youth to go into cocoa farming, there are more than enough reasons for Government to push at the international platform for a fair and sustainable financial package for our farmers.
It’s on this score that I share in FoE-Ghana an environmental NGO with a mission of conservation and sustainable use of the world’s resources call to remind central government that our beloved motherland, Ama Ghana has a great opportunity to restore its degraded forest whiles protecting the remaining forest resources if the laws are allowed to work.
Long live Ghana, long live all environmentalists who have taken the fight to reclaim our degraded forest vegetation.
By: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH
Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org