Cocoa and REDD

James Gockowski,, Valentina Robiglio, Sander Muilerman, Nana Fredua Agyeman, and Richard Asare

Smallholder farmers produce improved cocoa planting materials, Côte d'Ivoire. Photo by IITA
Smallholder farmers produce improved cocoa planting materials, Côte d'Ivoire. Photo by IITA

In the humid lowlands of Africa, the expansion of extensive low-input agriculture is the most important driver of tropical deforestation and forest degradation with a negative impact on biodiversity and climate change (Norris et al. 2010; Phalan et al. 2011).

A recent global analysis of the climate change impact of agriculture estimated that between 8.64 and 15.1 million square km of land were spared from the plow as a result of yield gains achieved since 1961 (Burney et al. 2010). These land savings generated avoided greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions representing between 18% and 34% of the total 478 GtC emitted by humans between 1850 and 2005. A similar land use change analysis conducted for West Africa estimated that over 21,000 km2 of deforestation/forest degradation that occurred between 1988 and 2007 could have been avoided if the improved seeds/fertilizer already developed in the 1960s had been adopted (Gockowski and Sonwa 2011).

A methodology for quantifying and qualifying the impact of agricultural intensification on deforestation and poverty has been developed. This is based upon (a) the remote sensing analysis of land use change, (b) structured interviews with a random sample of rural households, and (c) an anthropological case study, all conducted in a defined benchmark area. The 1201 square km benchmark in the Bia district, Ghana, is the most important cocoa-growing area in the country whose increasingly diminished forests are home to the endangered Roloway monkey and are a global conservation priority. Cocoa producers in this benchmark have experienced rapid yield gains as a result of a sequential series of intensification policies that began in 2003.

Figure 1. Land-use change trajectories, 2000-2011.
Figure 1. Land-use change trajectories, 2000-2011.

Measuring deforestation and land use intensification
The retrospective household survey chronicled the land-use and migration history of each household in establishing a mean rate of deforestation from 1960 to 2003. More recent estimates were determined from the interpretation of satellite imagery from 2003 Landsat, 2006 Spot, and 2011 ALOS. Based on these analyses, the mean average rate of deforestation has fallen from 1,006 ha/year prior to the initiation of intensification policies to 212 ha/year.

Most of the deforestation still occurring has entailed encroachments in the Bia Game Reserve and the Krokosua Hills Forest Reserve and, to a lesser degree, Bia National Park whose environs are more stringently protected (Fig. 1). Outside these reserves there is scarcely any forest remaining.

The intensification policies initiated in the early 2000s focused on the acquisition and distribution of subsidized fertilizers and pesticides to farmers. The impact of these policies on yields and incomes was evaluated by comparing predicted outputs at 2000 and 2011 levels of input use with a micro-econometric model of household cocoa production constructed with data from the household survey (Table 1). Yields in the benchmark nearly tripled mainly because of the increased use of fertilizers and household income doubled (Gockowski et al. 2011).

Table 1. A comparison of mean input use in 2000-01 prior to fertilizer interventions and in 2010-11.
Table 1. A comparison of mean input use in 2000-01 prior to fertilizer interventions and in 2010-11.

Supporting smallholder fertilizer use instead of forests through REDD
The objective of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is to reduce GHG. The method is designed to use market valuation and financial incentives to reward deforestation agents, such as the cocoa farmers of Ghana, for a reduction in emissions.

To produce the output achieved in the benchmark area of our study using the extensive cocoa technology of 10 years ago would require an additional 150,000 ha of rainforest. The amount and value of carbon not entering our atmosphere because of avoided deforestation are an external value that is not captured in the market price received by the farmers intensifying production. Consequently there will be a socially suboptimal level of investment in intensification. REDD is envisaged as a mechanism for addressing this market failure.

Fertilizer use in Africa is the lowest of any region in the world. Not only does this perpetuate poverty it also contributes to emissions of GHG and loss of biodiversity. We have developed a methodology for determining the amount of deforestation avoided through increased use of fertilizer. Thus, it is a relatively simple matter to value the emissions that are also avoided. More difficult is the question of how to distribute these resources so as to correct this perceived market failure. Directly paying farmers for environmental services has proven to be a costly endeavor and has rarely been successful with smallholders.

Cocoa plants and pods, Ghana. Photo by IITA
Cocoa plants and pods, Ghana. Photo by IITA

As an alternative we propose a government-to-government transfer of earmarked funds for supporting agricultural intensification through investments in improved public infrastructure, extension services, agricultural research, and, yes, fertilizer subsidies. There is a risk that more productive technologies lead to greater deforestation, at least at the local level. To address this, a portion of the REDD funds should be used to enforce protected forest boundaries from encroachment. When properly implemented, agricultural intensification can relieve poverty, conserve biodiversity, and reduce emissions of GHG.

Burney, J.A., S.J. Davis, and D.B. Lobell. 2010. Greenhouse gas mitigation by agricultural intensification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(26): 12052–12057.
Gockowski, J. and D. Sonwa. 2011. Cocoa Intensification Scenarios and their Predicted Impact on CO2 Emissions, Biodiversity Conservation, and Rural Livelihoods in the Guinea Rain Forest of West Africa. Environmental Management 48(2): 307–321.
Gockowski, J., V. Robiglio, S. Muilerman, and N.F. Agyeman. 2011. Agricultural Intensification as a Strategy for Climate Mitigation in Ghana: An evaluative study of the COCOBOD High Tech Program, rural incomes, and forest resources in the Bia (Juaboso) District of Ghana. Final report to CGIAR Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)—Poverty Alleviation through Climate Change Mitigation.
Norris K., A. Asase, B. Collen, J. Gockowski, J. Mason, B. Phalan, and A. Wade. 2010. Biodiversity in a forest-agricultural mosaic—the changing face of West African rainforests. Biological Conservation 143: 2341–2350.
Phalan, B, M. Onial, A. Balmford, and R. Green. 2011. Reconciling Food Production and Biodiversity Conservation: Land Sharing and Land Sparing Compared. Science 333: 1289.

A ‘Green Revolution’ in the West African cocoa belt

Jim Gockowski (, Ranjana Bhattacharjee, Richard Asare, and Sander Muilerman
J. Gockowski, Agricultural Economist, IITA, Ghana; R. Bhattacharjee, Molecular Geneticist, IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria; R. Asare, Cocoa Agroforester; S. Muilerman, Associate Professional Officer, IITA, Ghana

Red-podded cocoa, Cameroon. Photo by IITA.
Red-podded cocoa, Cameroon. Photo by IITA.
Over two-thirds of global cocoa production comes from small farms carved out of the humid forests of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon in West Africa. Cacao in West Africa was introduced in the late 1800s and the production of cocoa was, and still remains, largely a small-holder enterprise. Today, the large majority of West African cocoa farmers are aging and struggling with aging tree stocks on depleted soils that exhibit low and declining yields. In contrast, the rapid expansion of intensified cocoa production systems through the High Tech Program (HTP) of the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board (Cocobod) over the last 10 years has resulted in productivity gains that appear to rival those of wheat during the Indian Green Revolution (Fig. 1).

Over the last 10 years, IITA and various stakeholders in the cocoa belt have been developing cocoa innovations and sharing knowledge through the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP). The HTP is credited for having demonstrated the technical feasibility of a Green Revolution in the Ghanaian farm sector.

Structural overview of a Brown Revolution
Recent STCP studies attribute impressive yield gains over the last 10 years to a combination of factors. A three-fold increase in the global price of cocoa that occurred simultaneously with the establishment of Cocobod and the reform of producer price policy resulted in much higher producer prices as compared to the previous decade. Higher farm-gate prices combined with Cocobod subsidies on fertilizers and pesticides greatly improved the profitability of input use. In less than 10 years, fertilizer use in the Western Region of Ghana rose from less than 6% to over 80% of cocoa farmers.

Figure 1. A comparison of yield growth per hectare during the initial phases of the Indian Green Revolution in wheat (1966 to 1975) and the Ghanaian Green Revolution in cocoa (2002 to 2011). Data source: FAOSTAT production statistics accessed online 16 February 2012.
Figure 1. A comparison of yield growth per hectare during the initial phases of the Indian Green Revolution in wheat (1966 to 1975) and the Ghanaian Green Revolution in cocoa (2002 to 2011). Data source: FAOSTAT production statistics accessed online 16 February 2012.
The increased use of fertilizer was the largest estimated factor that contributed to productivity gains in the sector. Improved farmer access to fertilizers resulted from the liberalization of internal cocoa marketing. As a result of this reform, private licensed buying companies were allowed to compete for the purchase of the farmers’ dried cocoa. The ensuing competition was not in terms of the farm-gate price paid (Cocobod sets a pan-territorial producer price) but rather in the supply of inputs including fertilizers to farmers. These inputs are most often provided as an in-kind loan linked to the future sale of the farmers’ cocoa to the buyer. Another important factor underlying the productivity gains explained in Figure 1 has been the intensified control of cocoa pests and diseases achieved by the US$40 million in annual expenditures of the Cocoa Disease and Pest Control (CODAPEC) program.

Other innovations such as cocoa hybrids developed by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) were estimated to be four times more productive than locally selected planting materials but were only planted on a small proportion of farms. Likewise, farmer field school (FFS) training was received by only a small proportion of farmers but the mean output was 52% higher among those farmers as compared to those who did not receive such training, all other things being equal.

In the light of these findings, cocoa productivity growth in Ghana can further increase by continued increases in fertilizer use and intensified pest and disease control, particularly outside the Western region. There is also much to be gained from improving farmer access to hybrid planting materials and to scaling up participatory farmer training approaches.

Among the lessons drawn from the first 10 years of the cocoa Brown Revolution are the critical importance of (1) a government-supported vision for the subsector; (2) supportive producer price policy; (3) affordable and unproblematic access to inputs; (4) profitable technologies; and (5) farmer training. As seen in Ghana, research has a critical role in developing and sustaining profitable technologies and in generating knowledge that small-holders are able and willing to act upon.

Research will help bring about a Brown Revolution in West Africa. Photo by IITA.
Research will help bring about a Brown Revolution in West Africa. Photo by IITA.
Agenda for sustainable intensification in West and Central Africa
Limited access of farmers to extension, fertilizers, and improved planting materials were among the major technical constraints revealed by a 2001/2002 baseline survey of the cocoa sector conducted by the STCP. While progress has been made in Ghana, there still remain the principal constraints to the achievement of a Brown Revolution across West Africa.

Improving access to improved planting material
Improving farmers’ access to high-quality planting material has been the focus of the STCP-supported African Cocoa Breeders Working Group (ACBWG) since 2003. The working group collaborated with cocoa breeding programs of the US Department of Agriculture and Mars, and received regional backstopping and training from IITA. The ACBWG has characterized cocoa germplasm from farmers’ fields and research stations which has contributed to an understanding of the genetic diversity in West African cocoa germplasm. The study revealed mislabeling of cocoa germplasm in breeder collections and confirmed the low adoption of improved materials by the farmers in West Africa. The working group is currently using molecular breeding approaches to rapidly develop superior true-to-type genotypes with disease resistance and improved horticultural traits.

The delivery of existing improved planting materials to farmers remains a key constraint in West Africa. The low adoption of improved planting materials was thought to be due to poor awareness about the benefits of growing improved planting materials and high transaction costs in acquiring these materials. To address these constraints, the ACBWG joined the African Cocoa Initiative (ACI) of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) to demonstrate the performance of improved planting materials and best agricultural practices under farmers’ field conditions and design and test innovative approaches that will increase adoption of improved germplasm. IITA provides technical support to the ACBWG in molecular breeding, develops training materials pertaining to replanting and rehabilitation of old and unproductive tree stocks, and provides assistance with seed brokerage systems developed and tested in Ghana by the STCP.

Integrated crop, pest, and disease management
The increased use of fertilizers and the intensified control of capsid insects by small-holders were the major factors underlying the productivity growth of the Ghanaian cocoa sector. The tonnage of granular fertilizer applied on cocoa rose from essentially zero in 2000/2001 to 130,000 t in 2009/2010. There is a need to develop diagnostic protocols for assessing nutrient balances, pest and disease pressure, yields, and economic returns that will lead to more profitable fertilizer and treatment recommendations tailored to the specificities of the farmers’ local environment. IITA has developed such a protocol for the coffee-banana systems of Eastern Africa and proposes adapting this diagnostic to the cocoa sectors in Nigeria and Cameroon. Major economic losses are also caused by capsid insects, black pod fungal disease, and cocoa swollen shoot virus disease. An integrated program of soil, pest, and disease management research is required to keep these constraints under control.

Training of trainers for cocoa farmers in Ghana. Photo by IITA.
Training of trainers for cocoa farmers in Ghana. Photo by IITA.
The STCP farmer field school program was designed and developed by scientists from IITA and the national research systems of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Cameroon to address the extension constraint in 2003. Since then, more than 150,000 cocoa farmers have participated in FFS training. On average, the productivity gains following training have ranged from 15 to over 50% depending on the locality. The task, however, is not complete; evolution in knowledge and knowledge delivery technologies requires a continual effort to update and adapt extension approaches.

The technical and economic feasibility of Brown Revolution technology in the cocoa sector has been demonstrated. However, the long-run sustainability of the institutions and enterprises engaged in the generation and delivery of these technologies among all small-holder farmers is still an area of concern. Without bottom line profitability, small-holders will forgo inputs and revert to environmentally destructive practices which mine soil nutrients, result in unabated pest and disease losses, and lead to unnecessary deforestation. Research has a fundamental role to play in maintaining the profitability of these technologies.

Liberia and Ghana to develop agriculture

The governments of Ghana and the Republic of Liberia have officially agreed to jointly develop, promote, and implement research activities to improve their agricultural sectors.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of Ghana and Liberia, with the assistance of IITA’s Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), in collaboration with the Ghana Cocoa Board. IITA/STCP works in both countries.

The agreement was signed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kwabena Duffuor, and the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Anthony Fofie, for Ghana, and by the Minister of Agriculture, Florence Chenoweth, and the Deputy Director General of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Abugarshall Kai on behalf of Liberia.

Under the MoU, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana and Liberia’s CARI will exchange expertise, knowledge, and genetic resources (seeds and nursery development) to develop and improve the tree crops sector in Liberia. Specifically, the national research institutions of both countries will facilitate the provision of planting material as requested by either countries, make available research and training facilities and materials to visiting scientists from either institution, and provide technical expertise for the successful implementation of mutually-agreed projects.