For the first time ever in Ghana, cocoa farmers have obtained official ownership of valuable non-cocoa trees on their farms.
Benefiting from this breakthrough are 150 farmers in Ghana’s Western Region who have successfully petitioned the Ghanaian government to register ownership of trees planted on their cocoa farms.
Leading the effort was an international consortium consisting of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), Sustainable Food Lab, Agro Eco – Louis Bolk Institute, and Meridia.
The development comes as the chocolate and cocoa sector works closely with the governments of Ghana and neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain. Their work was funded by the US Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the US government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
Unleashing the potential of tree ownership is an important milestone for efforts to conserve forests and support diversified sources of income for cocoa farmers. According to WCF Environment Director Ethan Budiansky, the new developments in Ghana “allow cocoa farmers to include shade trees as part of their business plans. Growing cocoa alongside shade trees helps farmers confront the effects of climate change and provides additional sources of income.”
Cocoa and chocolate companies working with farmers on climate adaptation and landscape level resilience have long called for farmers to be granted guaranteed ownership of timber trees. In partnership with the Ghana Forestry Commission and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the consortium successfully tested an affordable new tree registration system, using the latest technology to gather data on 150 farms and create registration forms. Ghanaian government officials played a critical role in attributing registration numbers to the farmers’ trees.
Ensuring tree tenure for West African cocoa farmers is key to preserving the productivity of their farms. When growing timber trees on their land, farmers can earn money by thinning trees halfway through the 25 to 30-year cocoa life cycle. More income is possible at the end of this cycle, when heavy investments are needed to rehabilitate aged cocoa trees.
Tree tenure is also seen by experts as a way to fight the growing problem of illegal mining (also known as galamsey). Agroforestry prompts farmers and their families to take a longer-term view of land management, thereby reducing the appeal of risky short-term gains offered through galamsey.