A multi-sectoral approach to working with cocoa farmers
Cocoa farmers are usually reluctant to cut down their unproductive trees, but the practice has become a last resort for many farmers whose plots have become unproductive. The SNV’s Shaded Cocoa Agroforestry Systems (SCAFS) adopted a multi-faceted approach to boost the interest of cocoa farmers to rehabilitate their unproductive farms, use agro-forestry and not expand their production in local forests.
To raise awareness with farmers about the project, SNV cooperated with local radio stations in the district to air advertisements and interviews. We also organised various face-to-face meetings with local chiefs, opinion leaders and farmer groups. The meetings increased farmers' knowledge about the project and encouraged them to rehabilitate their cocoa tree plot. At the meetings also various hurdles that smallholder farmers are facing were discussed.
To be able to raise and distribute re-planting materials that would be necessary, the project established nurseries at four central locations. At the nurseries, staff raised improved cocoa seedlings, indigenous trees with economic value and plantain suckers. SNV also trained farmers on raising seedlings and multiplying plantain suckers. “SNV has taught me about a new technology to multiply plantain. This means that I can now do this on my own, sell them to other farmers and improve my income.” Joseph Ansah, a 54 year old farmer from Asikuma shares.
When a farmer registered his fallow or unproductive plot, it was demarcated with GPS devices, to establish its size and determine the number of seedlings needed for replanting. If farmers decided to cut their unproductive or diseased trees and replant using agro-forestry, they were given the necessary re-planting seedlings without costs. “I received 1,111 cocoa hybrid seedlings, 1,111 pieces of plantain suckers and 30 pieces of economic trees. I saved a lot of money that I can use for other investments.” Yaa Ampomah, a 60 year old farmer at Essam tells us.
To ensure that farmers adhere to proper replanting designs (e.g. they shouldn’t plant the seedlings to close to each other as this will impact their growth), the project educated farmers on good agricultural practices, through local radio stations, training, and 40 model farms. SNV also worked with public sector organisations (such as the Ghanese cocoa board COCOBOD, the Forestry Commission and the Bia West District Assembly), and private cocoa processing companies to strengthen market-based input and extension services. “Prior to SNV’s intervention to introduce us to the new model to replant cocoa farms, we used to rehabilitate our farms by using cocoa beans from the Amazon cocoa pod which is susceptible to diseases and did not use a proper planting design. Now, we are provided with agronomy and extension support which helps us to do proper lining and pegging. We also know about the benefits of using shade systems in our farms” said Christian Nkrumah, a 34 year old farmer from Asuopri Community.
After a start-up and pilot phase, the project is in full implementation mode. With the multi-faceted approach, the project is delivering real results with currently more than 750 cocoa farmers owning over 450 hectares having decided to rehabilitate their plot.