Climate change is a serious threat to agricultural production which has a strong connotation to achieving food security in Ghana.
The weather patterns has drastically changed in Ghana over the years. This has made farmers unable to even predict the weather to aid in planting of crops. As a result, many farmers record low crop production, impacting negatively on livelihood as well as export for the country.
The cocoa sector is not spared from the onset of climate change. Farmers who plant seedlings find it extremely difficult to nurture the growth of the seedlings. This is because Ghana’s agricultural sector and for that matter the cocoa sector is heavily rain fed. The application of irrigation facilities is so expensive to smallholder farmers and the government cannot simply provide that means to every smallholder farmer due to budget constraint. The cocoa sector remains a strong backbone to Ghana’s economy and growth as a middle income country. Already, projected production for the cocoa season is not expected to be met due various factors, of which climate change is involved.
Climate change and climate variability are expected to have a significant impact on smallholder farming in the Ghanaian cocoa belt. As a response new measures that can address those impacts are being defined under ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’. This new buzz term already includes many of the tried and true measures that form the backbone of sustainable agriculture – building soil fertility, protecting watersheds, increasing access to knowledge, inputs and markets for more profitable and food secure farming livelihoods.
In addition, apart from aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming, the concept of climate smart agriculture also introduces a new angle in that it helps farmers, government, companies and non-governmental organisations better understand and manage the risks posed by climate change and thus be more resilient. In order to make such efforts meaningful for a large number of stakeholders, scaling climate smart agriculture necessitates engaging multiple actors to understand site-specific projections of climate impacts and develop suitable responses accordingly. This is no different for cocoa.
Projects aimed at building climate resilience in the sector become very vital to the growth of the cocoa sector, especially as the country is trying all viable means to become the world’s leading producer of cocoa.
A new project focusing on Climate Smart Cocoa Value Chains in Ghana is being implemented in Ghana under CGIAR’s global ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security’ (CCAFS) research program and being implemented by a project consortium made up of preeminent actors in agricultural climate science and in sustainable value chain development namely the CGIAR (represented by International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Rainforest Alliance (voluntary certification), Root Capital (impact investing) and Sustainable Food Lab (global dialogue on sustainable agriculture systems).
This new CCAFS project focuses on mainstreaming climate smart agriculture in cocoa-based farming systems, through applied climate science, certified supply chains and impact investing. The project leverages existing value chain interventions and within them, will translate climate science into actionable strategies for farmers and supporting actors including industry, certifiers, and investors. This novel combination adds value to existing work with the goal of achieving adoption at scale for locally relevant climate smart agriculture practices.
Climate change impacts will vary across Ghana with major changes 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 climate smart agriculture practices.
The southern and western zones will require climate smart agriculture 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.
Dr Mark Lundy, the project leader at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) says the project seeks to basically understand how climate change will affect the cocoa sector in Ghana.
The idea is to understand much how climate change and soil capacity affect the cocoa sector which we have worked on, he stated.
“The key message is that climate change will not affect the whole country at the same time and the same way, so it is very important to understand where climate change impact will happen first and most severe or stronger.
“The other thing we have been working on very closely is the idea of identifying the different levels of climate change impact from coping, to adjustments, as well as transformation, and the specific practice farmers need to adopt in different zones to be able to produce cocoa, ” Dr Lundy said.
Series of workshops have been held with farmers to understand exactly the different practices wold be most useful at different levels of climate change under the project. For a farmer, risks include production, as well as how farming systems need to function under climate change.
For this year the project would be taking that information on different types of risks and providing solutions at that level of risks and eventually putting them into different pathways.
“One is putting them into training materials so that farmers can get access to what needs to be done where and also exploring how to build financial modules so that investment can come in to support the uptake of these practices by farmers.
“Another area is to provide support to key policy makers such as COCOBOD, forestry commission to improve in policy making. We are working very closely on conversation with the private sector on what roles the private sector play in helping to promote climate smart practices in cocoa in Ghana.
“So we understand that the changes need to happen at the farm level but we also expect the private sector to provide support or incentive so that farmers will actually change, because we can’t expect farmers to change on their own,” he says.
Sander Muilerman, a Social Scientist at the IITA says more actors in the cocoa value chain need to reconsider issues such as policy, and practices.
“It is important to offer choices to farmers. This can be through training, through proposing new farming strategies and to help them make their own assessments of how to become resilient. We need to involve many different players to find solutions. Climate change is a slow process but it is happening and farmers are feeling the impact.
“We need the whole sector to come together and examine the impact of climate change because the impact will be strong by 2030. That impact will be felt by the future farmer, the next generation.Therefore o the whole sector, private, policy makers, must come together and think of systems that withstand the impact of climate change,” Muilerman emphasised.
Dr Richard Asare, an Agroforester at IITA stated that the government of Ghana is the process of supplying 60 million seedlings to farmers through rehabilitation and the major risk to that is climate change.
“This is because if farmers do not have the package to plant these seedlings in the field, we are going to lose all these seedlings and government lose money and lose out on future cocoa beans. So the government can use the maps developed through the project to plan policies before they are even started,” he noted.
Dr Christian Bunn, Postdoctoral Fellow at the CIAT, says farmers in the cocoa zones have complained of higher temperatures leading to distress of seedlings.
Christian Mensah, Senior manager, West Africa at Rainforest Alliance, says farmers are already experiencing the devastating impact of climate change and taking actions expect that because of the lack of knowledge they are unsure whether these practices will help to build the resilience and adaptation they need to face the changing climate.
According to him most decisions taken by farmers are based on past experiences.
“What this module helps to do now is to look into the future what we are seeing can be better define practices to build residence against the future situation.
“It is helping at the moment to be more site specific, even for shade trees we have had recommendations 69 shaded trees per acre but you go to Ankasa and you cannot have the same recommendation there vice-a-vice place like Offinso.
“So if we can better advice farmers on these practices, that is relevant to their location then that is the tool we have at the moment. And what we are trying to do at the policy level is to try to build these understanding common language of delivering to the farmer so that the farmer does not become confused with regard to what to do, ” he mentioned.
Stephanie Daniels, Senior Program Director, Agriculture & Development at Sustainable Food Lab, noted that it is very important for Ghana to have a response to climate change.
“So it is both an opportunity for Ghana to secure its market by acting on it and it is a real incentive for companies to understand that investing and making sure that their supplies are secured meaning that farmers are resilient over many decades to come,” she stated.
Source: Samuel Hinneh