APRA Brief 30: Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers Need to Change Gear: What Policymakers Need to Know, and What They Might Do

Written by Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro, Joseph Teye and Steve Wiggins

Cocoa farmers in Ghana face increasing challenges. In the past, many of them could make a living from cocoa thanks to the advantages – ‘forest rents’ – that initially apply when forest is cleared to create cocoa farms: fertile soils, few pests and diseases. With time, however, weeds invade, pests and diseases build up, and trees age. To maintain production requires more labour, more inputs and more skill. In the past, farmers would often abandon older groves and seek new forest to clear. As they did so, the frontier for cocoa farming moved westwards across Ghana to the remaining high forest. But by 2000 or so, no new forest was available. Farmers now have to manage aging stands of trees, clear weeds and parasites, and combat pests, fungi and diseases. In Suhum District in the east and in Juaboso District in the far west of Ghana, we talked to farmers. They understood the challenges they faced, and knew how to deal with some of them. But many were not farming their cocoa as well as they could, losing yields and income as a result. This brief provides a basis for policymakers to move forward in responding to the current challenges facing cocoa farmers.

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