Climate smart cocoa picks up steam in Ghana
A cross-section of more than 50 people representing the Ghana cocoa sector came together March 9 in Accra to review the advances of the Climate Smart Value Chain project being implemented by CIAT, IITA, Rainforest Alliance, Root Capital and the Sustainable Food Lab. This workshop builds on a kick-off workshop held in May 2015, field visits and joint work combining soil mapping with climate change data in collaboration with the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana and focused on providing information to value chain actors generated during the past year.
The first presentation and discussion focused on providing updated climate change projections based on joint work by CIAT and CRIG incorporating climate datasets, current cocoa production sites and soil information. Key take-ways from this work include:
- Climate change impacts will vary across Ghana with major changes are expected by 2030.
- Zones in the north will face the strongest impacts due to strong dry seasons, decreased rainfall and poor soils with much of these regions loosing suitability and facing pressure to transition out of cacao and into other crops.
- The central zone will face important impact with higher temperatures but more reliable rainfall and average soils. This region can continue to product cacao with effective intervention and adoption of CSA practices.
- The southern and western zones will require CSA practice adoption but will remain suitable for cacao. The current conditions in this agro ecological zone will become predominant in the cocoa growing zones of Ghana by 2030 and even more so by 2050.
- Recent data shows that farmers are already reporting declining cocoa yields in the north and central zones due to climate change while southern wetter zones are higher.
An animated discussion followed with interest in on how to further develop this analysis. Several participants suggested that the project incorporate yield data to model impacts on volume to place an economic value on potential scenarios and highlight the cost of inaction for the cocoa sector in Ghana.
A second presentation focused on results from farmer consultations on adequate climate smart practices. This presentation first highlighted the elaborate approach that was used to identify, assess and validate long lists of specific CSA practices for each of the climatic impact zones. Desk study, expert interviews and farmer consultations were followed up with field assessments, a stakeholder workshop of several days at CRIG and finally field verification with reaching over a thousand farmers in the three impact zones.
The presentation also showed how cocoa farmers are already reporting unpredictable climatic conditions these last years and that their experiences in the different zones are pointing in the directions of the predictions. Farmer feedback on the initial listing of CSA practices per zone led to strong opportunities for common learning and to adaptations and additions in the lists. Several examples were found of farmers doing quite well even in unlikely circumstances by adopting local innovative measures such as irrigation.
The exercise also identified many constraints and issues, for example related to value chain inefficiencies and the policy environment. This generated a brief discussion among participants. In-depth review of the CSA practices was continued in a focused session in the afternoon.
The third presentation laid out a series of suggested learning sites. The goal was to identify partners interested in promoting CSA practices in specific zones. With interested partners, the project would provide access to specific climate change projections, key drivers of change and help identify CSA practices to test, conduct cost-benefit analysis and use to construct site specific resilient strategies.
The final session highlighted key policy processes and linkages from the perspective of Ghana Cocoa Board and the Forestry Commission of Ghana. Tei Quartey from COCOBOD provided a sneak preview of its new policy for climate smart cocoa in Ghana that will be discussed publically on March 16. This new 10 year strategic plan places a strong bet on promoting the uptake of CSA across the Ghana cocoa sector. Yaw Kwakye from the Forestry Commission provided an update on the emerging mitigation strategy where Ghana is a leader globally on this work. The cocoa sector plays a key role in this strategy. According to Yaw Kwakye of the Ghana Forestry Commission, “CCAFS initiative brings a lot of value to the work we are doing. They have shared with us the maps and we will make sure that the interesting outcomes are well articulated in the document we are developing.”
In the afternoon the remaining participants divided into two working groups. The first group discussed the specific CSA practices. In a two hour session the lists of dozens of proposed practices per impact zone were discussed by a group of twenty participants who volunteered stay on and review. Much of the discussions focused on specific technical issues e.g. on irrigation, planting and shade levels. All in all the identified CSA practices were generally appreciated and validated. Finally some key gaps were identified.
The second group focused on the needs of the private sector to make the business case for climate smart practices at various levels of the value chain. Participants discussed how their companies were investing now in building the sustainability and resilience of cocoa farmers. The group identified key barriers to scale and adoption of practices by farmers such as need for tree tenure to promote shade tree planting, effective communication vehicles to reach farmers with practical, consistent information; effective farmer organizations that can aggregate production and deliver information to members; innovative ways to reach youth; and the opportunity for Ghana to brand itself as the origin of high quality, Climate Smart Cocoa to international buyers.