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.

From traditional to science based: Transforming agricultural practices

In recent times discussions on deforestation in the tropics more often than not have pointed to agricultural expansion as one major factor behind the depletion of forests.

Forests are crucial to life on earth: IITA forest. Photo by IITA.
Forests are crucial to life on earth: IITA forest. Photo by IITA.

This argument has been underpinned by the fact that agricultural growth in the region has been driven by area expansion rather than improved productivity.

Environmentalists say the depletion of forests hurts biodiversity, encourages climate change, and jeopardizes our future existence on this planet.

But a new study finds that increasing agricultural productivity through the application of fertilizers will reduce the rate of deforestation and help transform agriculture with less damage to the environment.

The study by researchers Jim Gockowski of IITA and D. Sonwa of CIFOR, two centers of the CGIAR, established that the boom in production in the last two decades in the major cocoa-producing countries of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon was detrimental to the forest, as farmers had to clear large expanses of trees for cocoa cultivation.

Cocoa production, they say, doubled between 1987 and 2007 but at a heavy cost, as West Africa’s Guinean Rainforest (GRF)—a region described as the ‘global biodiversity hotspot’—shrank to 113,000 km2.

The principal driver of this environmental change has been the expansion of low-input smallholder agriculture that depends on environmentally destructive practices, such as slash-and-burn and land clearing.

The researchers found that increasing the use of fertilizer on cocoa–timber farms would have spared about 2 million ha of tropical forest from being cleared or severely degraded.

Cocoa farmer drying beans. Photo by IITA.
Cocoa farmer drying beans. Photo by IITA.

The study suggested that farmers could have achieved the same outputs without widespread deforestation through the intensified use of fertilizers and agrochemicals coupled with improved crop husbandry.

By doing so farmers would have doubled their incomes and helped to avoid deforestation and degradation. This would have generated a value of over US$1,600 million on 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions that would not have come as a result of the deforestation.

The findings should be taken into consideration in discussions about efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), say the researchers. Instead of considering complicated strategies involving monetary or in-kind transfers to farmers or communities for altering their land- use behavior, funds to support REDD could be used to provide incentives and promote agricultural intensification efforts that would lead to higher rural incomes, greater food security, and avoid emissions through the achievement of higher agricultural yields.

The limited use of fertilizer in the GRF (less than 4 kg/ha of total nutrients) may have been logical in 1960, when West African populations were only 25% of today’s levels and forest land was still relatively abundant. That choice is no longer tenable in a context where only 15 to 20% of the GRF remain. There are no longer any frontier forests in West Africa for future generations to exploit.

Strategies to reduce deforestation and conserve biodiversity in West Africa must thus focus on transforming agricultural practices from the traditional to modern science-based methods. Fertilizers- for-Forest (F4F) technology is available to sustainably intensify production and has achieved impressive increases in cocoa yield on a limited scale in parts of the GRF.

The authors say that REDD funding support to mitigate climate change as discussed in the Copenhagen Accord offers the potential of significant new public resources for investments in agricultural research and extension and market infrastructure to support the transformation of traditional agriculture in West Africa. The estimated value of the CO2 emissions thus avoided is conservatively estimated at $565/ha for achieving the envisaged doubling of yields. A significant proportion of REDD+ funding should be used to increase the adoption and level of fertilizer use in an F4F program.

Jim Gockowski: Sustainable intensification of agriculture

Jim Gockowski
Jim Gockowski

Jim Gockowski is an agricultural economist with the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) based in IITA-Ghana.

About 15 years ago, the Rockefeller Science Foundation offered Jim the opportunity to work in any five of CGIAR centers. His wife’s passion for Africa and Cameroon in particular made the family to choose IITA. In this interview with Atser Godwin, Gockowski shares his experience as he works in Africa for Africa.

Tell us about your work.
When I first started with IITA in 1995, I was involved in the Alternative to Slash and Burn Program. This was a system-wide program looking at issues of deforestation along the forest margins and trying to come up with alternatives to extensive agriculture that uses the forest as an input in the production system. Also, beginning in 2000, we got involved with STCP, which is a public-private partnership between the global chocolate industry and USAID that is focused on the cocoa belt of West Africa and is working on sustainable improvement of livelihoods of cocoa- producing households.

What has been its impact?
We do lots of evaluation, and we try and do some policy work with our studies and findings.

The impact of the social sciences in the STCP and the Alternative to Slash and Burn Program has been on two levels: One is on policy levels that is providing information and evidence, and the impact of policies or in some cases the lack of policies on livelihoods, outcomes, and the environment.

The other impact is in helping to transfer developed products—basically knowledge on natural resources management—to farmers. We have done this through development of curriculums for farmers’ field schools. We are also involved with some of the climate negotiations around the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative.

What have been the impacts of STCP?
We have trained over 120,000 farmers in five countries of West Africa. We have also worked with farmer organizations to strengthen their efforts through collective marketing with probably over 40,000 households being affected. These are probably two major impacts with the STCP. Farmers from the field school training have seen returns increased by between 40 and 43%.

What is REDD all about?
REDD is a means of reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It was a coalition of rainforest countries that got together in 2007 at the conference of the parties of the Kyoto protocol. They put their REDD agenda on the negotiating table in terms of the climate negotiation. The basic concept is that as developing countries, they need to provide jobs for their people and one way that is historical is to convert the rainforest into production agriculture or other forms of earning livelihoods.

The REDD idea is the concept of economic compensation to countries with tropical rainforests for their foregone opportunities of not deforesting the rainforest.

IITA-STCP works with partners to improve the livelihoods of households in cocoa-based production systems in West Africa. Photo by S. David, IITA.
IITA-STCP works with partners to improve the livelihoods of households in cocoa-based production systems in West Africa. Photo by S. David, IITA.

What is the IITA project called Fertilizers-for-Forest (F4F)?
What we know in West and Central Africa is that agriculture is the principal driving force for deforestation and in particular the practice of slash and burn. When this happens, you get wood ash that is loaded with potassium and some trace amounts of nitrogen. The wood ash improves the soil but it is not a sustainable practice.

The idea of Fertilizers-for-Forest is really about sustainable intensification led by policy changes that would offer farmers an alternative to cutting down the forest and burning to get wood ash. The alternative is that instead of cutting the forest to get the biomass, let’s use fertilizers.

We believe that this type of intensification is necessary for preserving what is being left of the West African forest which is 18% of what it used to be. It is also one way that we can conserve the Congo basin rainforest.

How do you see IITA playing a role in mitigating the effects of climate change?
There are two ways that we can play a role. One is to support policy-led intensification projects by working with NARES partners and better soil fertility management options. This will take away pressure on the rainforest and help in reducing global warming. This is on the mitigation side. Again, we know that climate is getting warmer, with predictions that in the next 70 years, temperatures could rise by more than three degrees. We also know that agricultural productivity doesn’t respond positively to warmer temperatures hence there will be a reduction in yields. So we need to be focused on the climate response of our major production systems as it proceeds. It will be a gradual thing but we need to be strategic about it. We need to strategize.

On the adaptation side, we need to be working on drought-tolerant crops. We need to do adaptive research that would allow the African smallholder farmers to deal with a change in climate.

Another area is that of institutions. We have problems with our credit markets, crop insurance, and input markets. We need to strengthen these institutions and a government policy that favors the private sector approach that doesn’t distort markets.

What are some of the positive changes that you are seeing in Africa?
From a rural perspective, I have seen a lot of self-empowerment. I think this is happening because democracy is playing its role by giving the rural majority a voice and that voice is starting to be heard. Again, I don’t think it will be business as usual because the population is growing quite fast and we need to feed these teeming millions. We need to modernize agriculture and African farmers are beginning to demand those from their public servants.

What makes your work successful?
If I have made any success, it is due to diligence. If you work hard, I guess good things result. We have a wonderful institute with a lot of good scientists and all that I can say is that I have been fortunate to work with very good scientists.