One of the main focus of Agro Eco is to improve on the livelihood of cocoa farmers in Ghana. For the past 15 years, we have worked together with other benevolent organizations to introduce various forms of interventions to improve cocoa farming, make it sustainable, more profitable and attractive.
Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Cocoa program with Whittaker’s
This program involves two cooperatives based in Asankrangwa and Assin Foso in the Western and Central regions of Ghana respectively.
The program supports about 10,000 people in over 40 communities in Ghana to improve their livelihood, community and environment. These cooperatives have been Rainforest Alliance Certified™ for over 10 years.
After 3 years of successfully implementing a project phase, we feared that all efforts would quickly vanish when the farmers were left without support. Together with Rainforest Alliance we pursued farmer organization and certification as two tools to keep the momentum going. The farmer organisations, financed with part of the certification premium, are now well established. A larger part of the premium is used as a guarantee to have an input scheme. More than 80 per cent of the small-scale farmers have adopted more sustainable agricultural practices such as diversification into various crops, planting new cocoa seedlings and shade tree planting.
These activities lead to increased productivity and consequently higher incomes. Some challenges remain but these farmers are well on their way to collectively take their fate in their own hands.
In 2019, J H Whittaker & Sons Ltd successfully entered into a partnership with both cooperatives and Agro Eco to source for Rainforest Alliance Certified™ beans from the members’ whiles supporting communities to be resilient.
Organic Cocoa Projects
In the years 2006-2008, the Cocoa Organic Farmers Association (COFA) in Akwadum-Brong Densuso received support from the Dutch Rabobank Foundation to go organize themselves and go organic. The area was identified by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana as being relatively disease free, and thus suitable to test organic practices. Agro Eco provided technical support in the form of capacity building to about 350 cocoa producing households in five communities, producing between 50-100 tons of cocoa.
The support was also to develop export of high quality certified organic cocoa beans in three years’ time. At the end of the project period, COFA was, and still is, a self-sustaining association, managing its own affairs, including maintenance of certification which is a Ghana
In 2011 COFA beans were used to produce 200,000 organic milk chocolate bars for HEMA’s “Return to Sender” project, supported by the Dutch Postcode Lottery and DOEN Foundation.
In Ntobroso and Tano, over 1500 farmers were organized and trained in organic standards. The two cooperatives produce over 3000 tons of organic certified beans. The groups have held their organic certificate for the past five years.
Cocoa seedlings in village nurseries run as a business
Most stakeholders depend on Cocobod and its structures to supply seedlings for rehabilitation. In many cases these used to be supplied for free, when one could lay hands on them. It is also possible to agree with CRIG on sources of disease free planting material and produce seedlings in village nurseries, set up and run like a business by a local nursery group. After an initial seed funding, the business can sustain itself.
While pruning is a GAP topic that is dealt with in the CCE training, one sees that farmers have difficulty implementing what they are taught. In working groups per community, those that are ready to properly prune the first 50 trees are stimulated to do so in a group exercise. What is very important is that the right tools are used. The pruning should be done by the farmers themselves but once they are convinced of its benefits one can introduce that pruning can be done by specially trained teams of local youngsters that are equipped with (serviced) tools through which they work better and faster.
African hardwood as shade trees.
Agro Eco is in a separate project that establishes the business case for African hardwood trees (like mahogany) that are planted as shade trees in cocoa. This could be a standalone, commercial investment project but in a certified environment. Calculations predict that the income from commercial timber trees can be the same as the cocoa income. The RA Impact Asankrangwa location could be very suited for this approach.