Cocoa farmers at Timeabu in the Ejisu-Juabeng Municipality of the Ashanti Region are cutting down trees on their farms, impeding efforts to tackle climate change effects on cocoa production.
The practice is thwarting government’s ‘Tree on the Farm’ initiative meant to address the impact of climate change on agriculture.
Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals requires signatory countries to integrate climate change issues into national planning.
Tameabu is predominantly a cocoa growing area, albeit on a subsistence scale.
The Forestry Commission and Ghana Cocobod introduced the ‘’Tree on Farm’’ initiative under the Forest Improvement Project in 2015.
About 30 million trees are expected to be planted over five years project is expected to be planted.
Each hectare of the cocoa farm across the country will harbour 18 trees to address deforestation and improve yield.
However, farmers here at Timeabu and surrounding communities are rather felling the trees because they unaware of their benefits.
“ First we had a lot of trees on our farms, timber operators cut down the trees on our farm, so for me, I don’t allow the trees to grow for operators to cut them down, I cut them myself”, worried farmer explained.
Mohammed Ali, 70, indicates that “Some of the trees, when the cocoa trees are beneath them the cocoa can’t grow properly, I have some on my farm and I have plans to cut them down”.
Misinformation and continuous practice over the years have compounded the problem, as demonstrated by a woman who says, “I have made up my mind to cut down the trees on my farm; they tell me it is because of the trees that my cocoa is not yielding properly”.
Local NGO, Centre for Climate Change and Food Security, undertook an outreach to the area with experts to advise the farmers on climate-smart agriculture practices.
Senior Researcher at Cocobod, Mohammed Fuad, says it is high time farmers took steps to mitigate effects of climate change on cocoa farms.
In 2015/16, most trees died out because of the harsh dry season (‘harmmatan’) the country encountered.
Farmers are being encouraged to plant recommended trees on their farms, which is a way to mitigate the effect of climate change.
“We know the challenge they face due to the tree tenure arrangement, contact forestry commission to register trees they plant”.
Meanwhile, the government has initiated a policy review regarding tree ownership.
Mr. Fuad says, “it’s our objective that in the end, farmers will have a sense of ownership towards the trees they plant in their farms. This will help us control the effect of climate change in cocoa farms”.
Director at Soil Research Institute, Dr. Joseph Fenning, revealed Ghana is losing over $4 billion annually to land degradation according to records from 2015.
“This must be addressed as soon as possible,” Dr Fenning urged.