APRA Working Paper 84: The Struggle to Intensify Cocoa Production in Ghana: Making a Living from the Forest in Western North

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Joseph Kofi Teye and Steve Wiggins

Since cocoa began to be cultivated in the 1880s in southern Ghana, it has created jobs, incomes and prosperity for the many farmers growing the crop. Until recently, cocoa farmers could make use of highly favourable conditions when clearing forests to plant cocoa. They needed to do little other than plant seedlings then wait to harvest the pods. When trees aged, or soil fertility declined, or swollen shoot viral disease attacked the trees, they could abandon the old groves and move to establish new stands of cocoa in virgin forests. Over the decades, the frontier for new cocoa farms moved west across the country. By the 2000s, however, the last available forests in Western Region were being taken up and the frontier closed. With no new land available for cocoa, farmers would need to maintain and renew their groves to preserve their incomes, and to intensify production if they wanted to earn more from cocoa. At the same time, farmers faced increasing attacks from pests, fungi, parasites and the deadly threat of swollen shoot – while their trees aged and needed replanting. As a result of a lack of technical knowledge and capital, farmers struggled to respond to these challenges, continue cocoa production and intensify further. This study explores if it is still possible to make a living from cocoa in the region and if so, how.

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