Our reporter engaging one of the beneficiary farmers
Our reporter engaging one of the beneficiary farmers

Emission reduction programme dividends: cocoa farmers tell success stories

Cocoa farmers in some parts of the country have started recording higher yields after adopting to sound agronomic practices that helped to minimise the impact of climate change.

After recording declining yields, partly because of climate change impacts, driven largely by illegal mining-induced deforestation and illegal logging, the farmers are now turning to the use of farming approaches that have a minimal impact on forests.

Their newly embraced farm management practices include regular pruning, routine sanitary harvesting (prompt removal of diseased pods and branches) and minimising the use of pesticides.

Again, the cocoa farmers have intensified the planting of economic shade trees on their cocoa farms, a practice cocoa agronomists say helps to provide shade for the cocoa trees to enhance budding and fruiting.

The sustainable cocoa production approaches and forest conservation measures are linked to the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme (GCFRP).

The first phase of the programme was signed with the World Bank and launched in 2019. 

A visit by the Daily Graphic to some of the cocoa farms in the Assin-Kruwa and Assin-Amoabeng Operational Areas in the Jukwa District of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), revealed that apart from the sound agronomic practices, the local communities have also instituted measures to prevent illegal loggers and illegal miners from destroying the forest in those areas.

In collaboration with the chiefs, opinion leaders and some civil society organisations (CSOs), the local communities have set up volunteer groups to monitor activities in the forests.

A 67-year-old farmer, Peter Otu, said the yield from his farm, which is located in the Assin-Jakai community in the Assin Amoabeng Operational Area, doubled after he adopted best agronomic practices.  

"I have been doing cocoa farming for over 30 years now. It is what has put food on my table and kept my children in school up to the university. Unfortunately, the yields from cocoa farms started declining rapidly. However, for the past four years, the yields have picked up again.

“We received training on best farming practices and now, I do proper pruning, weed control, pest control, planting of economic trees, removal of diseased pods, so the yields are improving. I am able to get 17 bags of cocoa per hectare unlike the previous years when I would have made barely half of that," he said.

Mr Otu is just one of the hundreds of cocoa farmers who are counting their blessings.

The Community Extension Agent (CEA) for the area, Evans Adu, said there were 1,028 farmers in the 16 communities in that operational area who owned 1,720 farms that translated into about 2,116 hectares.

“The farmers are adhering to all the agronomic practices we taught them, including weeding, fertiliser application, pruning, sanitary harvest and planting of economic shade trees, and they are recording higher yields,” he added.


The implementation of the GCFRP started in 2019 as part of measures to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

The programme was rolled out against the backdrop of increasing depletion of the forests and the ripple effects on cocoa production, the country’s leading foreign exchange earner.

The programme is on three key objectives – reducing expansionist cocoa production activities in forest areas; cutting down emissions by about 40 per cent within the 20-year lifespan of the strategy (2016-2035); and improving the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. 


The reward-based programme offers carbon credit payments from the global carbon fund when the hotspot intervention areas yield results.

Per the agreement signed with the World Bank’s Carbon Fund, the hotspot intervention areas are to reduce emissions by 10 million tonnes of by 2024 (2019-2024) with a unit yield of $5, translating into $50 million.

Hotspot intervention areas 

To ensure effective implementation of the programme, the National REDD+ Secretariat of the Forestry Commission and COCOBOD, with support from the chocolate industry and companies along the value chain, identified what is called hotspot intervention areas (HIA). 

The six intervention areas are selected on the basis of the intensity of the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, existing projects and interventions being implemented by private sector and state actors, adequate capacity and implementation structures at the field level. 

Those selected under the GCFRP are the Sefwi Wiawso/ Bibiani HIA, located in the Western North Region of Ghana; the Juaboso-Bia HIA, located in Western North Region in the Juaboso and Bia districts; and the Kakum HIA, located in the Central Region of Ghana. 

The rest are Asutifi/Asunafo HIA, located in the Asunafo and Asutifi districts in the Ahafo Region, Atewa in the Eastern Region, which lies within the Atewa, Denkyembour and East Akim districts, and the Ahafo-Ano intervention area, located in the Ahafo-Ano South, Atwima Mponua and Atwima Nwabiagya districts in the Ashanti Region. 

The intervention areas have a consortium of partners, comprising Forestry Commission, COCOBOD, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs), the private sector, civil society organisations (CSOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and a landscape management board, consisting of representatives from the communities.

Grateful community members

During the field visit, the farmer groups and local communities told the Daily Graphic that they had been officially notified about the payments they would receive.

Across the intervention areas, many of the community members said the money should be channelled into education, capacity-building programmes, procurement of inputs, including protective clothing and fertiliser.

“In consultation with the farmers, we are going to continue to do emission reduction programmes, especially tree planting. We will use part of this money to nurse economic trees and distribute to the people so that they can plant it in their cocoa farms,” the Chairman of Asunafo-Asuti Hotspot Intervention Management Board, Daniel Amposah Gyinayeh, said.

Direct benefits

Apart from the monetary benefits from the World Bank in carbon payments, the local communities expressed excitement about the direct impact the GCFRP had on their lives.

Irene Appiah cultivates a young cocoa farm on a nine-hectare land at Ohia Ma Adwen, a farming community in the Jukwa District.

On her farm, each of the cocoa trees has been planted beside a plantain tree in a linear form and intercropped with cassava, cocoyam and economic trees.

"This is a perfect example of how every newly established cocoa farm is supposed to look like. The cocoa seedlings have been planted by plantain trees because in times of drought, the roots of the cocoa will tap moisture from the plantain tree to survive," the CEA at Assin Kruwa, Emmanuel Gyansah, explained.

He stated that just like Ms Appiah, most of the 488 farmers who owned 785 farms, about 516 hectares within the Assin Kruwa operational area, adhered to strict agronomic practices.


The Chairman of Kakum Landscape HIA Management Board, Joseph Nicholas Nkrumah, said the GCFRP had helped to erase the negative perception farmers had about officials of COCOBOD, especially the CEAs.

“Initially, we thought agriculture extension officers were our enemies, but now, we even invite them to come for monitoring. Now, all rivers within the HIA are being protected by the community.

“We have seen the light and will not go back to the dark days when our activities destroyed the environment. We have formed a task force to help in protecting the forest,” he said. 

For Mr Amposah Gyinayeh, the GCFRP was a timely intervention as it came to save cocoa farmers from the adverse effects of climate change on the farms. 

“Because our productivity is increasing and our economic conditions are improving, our children are also developing interest in cocoa farming.

We have many university graduates who are now coming back to help their parents on the cocoa farm because they now know that cocoa farming is now a big business,” Mr Gyinayeh indicated. 

The Krontihene (chief) of Assin-Jakai and Assin-Praso, Nana Baffour Adjei X, also said GCFRP had helped members of the community to preserve their forests.

He gave the assurance that the traditional authorities in the area would continue to collaborate with other stakeholders to protect the forest from destruction.

World Bank payments

After almost four years of implementing the GCFRP, the intervention areas recorded some emission reductions, attracting some carbon payments from the World Bank.

On January 24, 2023, the World Bank announced that through its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), it had paid $4.86 million to Ghana for reducing 972,456 tonnes of carbon emissions for the first monitoring period under the programme spanning June to December, 2019. 

“This payment is the first of four under the country’s Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank to demonstrate potential for leveraging results-based payments for carbon credits,” the World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, Pierre Laporte, indicated. 

With that payment, Ghana became the second country in Africa after Mozambique, to receive payments from a World Bank Trust Fund for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, commonly known as REDD+.

Benefit sharing

The Director of Climate Change at the Forestry Commission, Roselyn Fosu Adjei, explained that there was a benefit sharing plan for the payments that had been tied to performance and level of responsibility. 

The plan describes the type of benefits to be transferred to the beneficiaries, the timing of the distribution, and the condition precedents for the payment of the benefits. 

It also contains the appropriate indicators for monitoring, measuring and verifying compliance with modalities for distributing benefits.

Per the benefit sharing plan, 69 per cent of the payments goes to the local communities whose interventions and practices yielded the carbon credit, 27 per cent goes to the relevant government institutions, and four per cent for administrative work by the REDD+ Secretariat.

“We have indicators on performance, both on the social and environmental sides. Once it is performance, we must justify why you should receive a particular amount,” she said.

The plan describes the various beneficiaries, their eligibility, roles and responsibilities while specifying the scale and modalities for distribution.

Ms Adjei said the REDD+ Secretariat was following processes to ensure that due diligence was done before the carbon payments were disbursed to the beneficiaries.

According to the REDD+ Secretariat, beneficiary intervention areas would receive payments ranging from $164,272 to $739,224, based on their performance.

The secretariat also indicated that the traditional authorities in the six intervention areas would together receive $91,450, while MMDAs and COCOBOD would receive $89,462 each, with the Forestry Commission receiving $180,336. 

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