In Ghana many cocoa farms have old trees that do not produce a lot of fruit. Most are owned by senior farmers who do not have the resources for or interest in rehabilitation.
"I am over 60 years old and I don’t have the energy to be proactive anymore. The income I get from my farm allows me to buy porridge and some drinks. I don't need anything else. I’m reluctant to replant because I don’t think I will live to see the benefits." says a senior cocoa tree farmer from Sewfi Asikuma.
To overcome the social barriers to replanting and showcase its benefits, The SNV Full to Sun Shaded Agro-forestry (SCAFS) project has started working with younger farmers in the area. However their situation is also often problemetic.
Most of the targeted farmers practise share-cropping. Many have inherited their farms and their family's 50 year lease on the land has expired. Traditional Ghanaian tenure arrangements give the title holder the right to take back or renegotiate the terms of the lease when the trees are cleared. In addition, many cocoa farmers in the Bia West area in Ghana belong to a different ethnic group than the land owners and the traditional authorities.
These factors create uncertain circumstances for the farmers that make them reluctant to cut and replant their aged cocoa trees. To address these concerns, SNV organised a community meeting that brought together representatives from the land owners, the Sefwi Traditional Council, and the migrant farmers.
Traditional leaders and migrant farmers meeting in Essam
Cutting and rehabilitating aged cocoa trees in Nsowakrom
At the meeting, participants discussed the existing land title arrangements that prevent replanting. Tenants and land owners both agreed that land leases need to be renewed to establish secure tenure agreements that will allow farmers to replant their farm. Farmers preferred arrangements which allow them to pay their rent in instalments and in cocoa beans rather than in cash. Land owners preferred upfront fixed payments in cash, which the farmers argued is hard because they will not have an income from cocoa for the first 3 years after replanting.
SNV invited Mr. Nicholas Cobbina, the chief cocoa farmer for Ghana’s Western North cocoa region, to speak at the event. He had replanted the aged trees on one of his farms several years ago. He urged the farmers present to embrace the terms proposed by the land owners. “I was reluctant also, but the Ghana Cocoa Board helped me to replant my farm with an improved cocoa tree species. Now I harvest 45 bags per acre from my replanted farm.”
Thanks to these community meetings, tenant held farms now form the bulk of the first batch of cocoa tree replanting. SNV supports the farmers by providing assistance for the cutting of the aged trees and supplying them with improved cocoa tree and shade tree seedlings. The Ghana Cocoa Board’s Cocoa Health and Extension Division provides technical advice and training to the farmers.
Now, SNV has started to encourage senior farmers to nominate a young family member who they think would like to take over their cocoa tree plot and start replanting as part of this process.