Nine Ghanaian cocoa farming unions have been awarded grants to invest in new climate-smart small businesses on behalf of their members, as part of a scheme implemented by Fairtrade Foundation.
Each new enterprise aims to pilot new ways for cocoa farmers to earn extra money to supplement their incomes and, at the same time, build their capacity to protect their crops and families from the harmful effects of the climate crisis.
Emerging from an existing partnership between Mondelēz International and Fairtrade under the Climate Change and Organizational Strengthening Programme, the grant scheme is part of the Cadbury Farmer Resilience Fund supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Mondelēz International’s cocoa sustainability program Cocoa Life, and implemented by Fairtrade.
The programme works with 22,500 farmers across nine unions and is designed to build a more resilient cocoa supply chain.
Life is tough for cocoa farmers in Ghana, many of whom live below the poverty line. To make matters worse, the climate crisis is already wreaking havoc: farmers in the cocoa lands are increasingly facing unpredictable weather patterns and rising temperatures.
As producers battle less predictable seasons, climate-induced plant diseases continue to spread, resulting in lower incomes and food insecurity.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on Ghana’s cocoa sector. Border closures and restrictions have affected exports, leaving producers struggling to buy inputs and sell their produce.
As a result, many families faced food insecurity due to price hikes. The Fairtrade-managed project aims to help them recover in a sustainable way.
Dr. Louisa Cox, Director of Impact at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “It’s crucial for cocoa farmers to earn income from other activities if they are going to have resilient futures. These grants are designed to allow cocoa unions to invest on behalf of their members. We’re giving them the seed capital and market information to make their own decisions, which is the right thing to do and also crucial to the long-term sustainability of cocoa.”
Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, Head of Cocoa Life Ghana at Mondelēz International said: “I’m so pleased that the grants have now been awarded to the nine unions and the projects are under way. We’ll be supporting the unions to implement their business plans, especially with strategic direction, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and learning.”
In order to determine which cocoa unions were most in need of the grants, Fairtrade conducted a ‘markets and livelihoods analysis’, holding in-depth discussions with each of the nine unions to explore their ideas for new ventures.
The unions carefully considered which alternative local crops could potentially be grown for income diversification, weighed up against each crop’s resilience to the effects of climate change.
Several cocoa unions proposed growing very similar food crops to sell at the local market: maize, cassava and vegetables came top of the list because they are suited to local agro-climatic conditions and help protect household food security.
Cassava in particular has the added benefit of value addition through processing (into ‘gari’), which can supplement incomes. The crops most favoured by the poorest farmers were key subsistence crops: maize, plantain, cocoyam and cassava.
Other suggestions included using cocoa by-products such as husks to make soap, or bee keeping, which promotes natural pollination in cocoa and increases productivity. Any income earned from these activities could then be invested back into cocoa production.
Beyond cocoa production, this income will also support food security with benefits for cocoa farming households.
One of the most ambitious proposals was to set up three commercial tilapia farms, which would in turn create further business and employment opportunities for the wider community.
Osei Owusu, Union Treasurer at Amansie West says: “We have begun the distribution of the yam setts to 50 communities made up of 3,200 farmers in the Amansie West District. We will also help women learn alternative livelihoods to enable them have other sources of income during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic. We pray COVID-19 will go soon and promise to make good use of the grant.”