Adapting cocoa farms to a changing climate
Climate change is affecting cocoa harvests in Ghana due to higher temperatures, longer dry seasons, and reduced rainfall. At model farms, The Full Sun to Shaded Agroforestry Systems (SCAFS) project is showcasing technologies and practices that will create climate change resilience and sustain cocoa harvests.
Shaded Agro-forestry systems
Nana Charles Kyeremeh is a local village leader in Abosi. Two years ago, Nana challenged SNV to rehabilitate one of his plots and proof the effectiveness of the shaded agro-forestry system. Rehabilitation of the plot had been attempted in 2014 using a different method had, but the effort had failed and the plot was left fallow. SNV decided to work with Nana as he is an important local voice and his plot presented an excellent opportunity to showcase the effectiveness and benefits of the shaded agroforestry system.
In June 2017, the SCAFS project started replanting the plot with temporary and permanent shade systems (i.e. plantain seedlings, cassava and indigenous timber tree species), interspersed with cocoa seedlings. The combination of shade trees, food crops and improved cocoa seedlings is the essence of the SCAFS model. Farmers using it, improve their family's food security and are able to supplement their income by selling any additional produce. In the longer term, the farmer is able to harvest cocoa beans again and also sell timber from the shade trees.
A year after planting, later the first shade system was well established; shade trees had grown to more than two metres high and Nana had been able to start harvesting plantain and cassava.
For this demonstration plot, the SCAFS project team wanted to go a step further and pilot an irrigation system. The irrigation system would provide a reliable water source for the cocoa hybrid and plantain seedlings, and could help support fulfil the community’s water needs. Nana agreed to participate in the pilot and in October 2017 the project team cut a borehole at the Abosi nursery site. Nana himself paid for the cost of water storage tank, the support structure, and the irrigation pipes to the trees on his plot. Water is pumped from the borehole by an electric pump, which was also paid for by Nana.
The irrigation system has enabled Nana to harvest about 3,000 kilograms of plantain in the first year. He should be able to harvest 9,000 kilograms of plantain and 10,000 kilograms cassava tubers in the following years. By selling the harvests Nana can earn up to CGC11,300 a year (about €2,000), enabling him to supplement his income, until he can start harvesting cocoa pods from the new cocoa trees in the third year. Five years after rehabilitation, cocoa yields are expected to be more than 1,000 kilograms per hectare (double the national average), earning Nana about CGC7,000 a year (€1,200).
Nana is happy with the system and the expected results. He will advocate with his fellow farmers to also start using water irrigation to increase their yields. The SCAFS team also intends to showcase the system to the national cocoa board COCOBOD to instigate local and national business development.