Being Led by the Landscape in Asunafo-Asutifi, Ghana

Headshot of Augustus Asamoah, Principal Project Manager, Proforest Africa

Author Augustus Asamoah

Principal Project Manager
Photo by Proforest

Asunafo-Asutifi is a complex landscape in the Ahafo region, part of the forest belt of Ghana. Walking through the region you will find fertile soil, grassland, especially savanna, with clusters of trees such as the mighty baobab or the graceful, but thorny acacia. You might also smell cocoa beans as they dry in the sun, laid out by farmers on long tables.

While forest accounts for a third of the land area, almost two thirds of the land is under agricultural production. In fact, Asunafo-Asutifi produces about 10% of the country’s national output of cocoa.

This is the story of how we are working with multi-stakeholder partners to develop a climate-smart cocoa landscape that benefits the local population while keeping the forests standing, and the journey we have taken with our partners so far.

We have learned to be led by the landscape in Asunafo-Asutifi, meaning both the planet and the people. The area has an estimated population of 312,435 mainly indigenous inhabitants, living in clustered settlements. Due to the rich natural resources, including minerals and timber, as well as arable land, there is also a substantial migrant population.


Sustainable cocoa growing community in Ghana
Photo by Proforest

Asunafo-Asutifi has been identified as one of six priority Hotspot Intervention Areas by the Ghana Forestry Commission, as part of its emission reduction programme – Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+. As with most agro-commodity production landscapes, deforestation caused by agricultural expansion into forests and logging (both legal and illegal), is high.

Our goal is to eliminate deforestation, within the framework of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, while ensuring cocoa productivity and local livelihoods are improved. We work on aligning all stakeholders, policy, and investment decisions with what the landscape and its people need.

We started with a baseline assessment to identify the socio-economic and ecological issues in the landscape. We looked at existing interventions in the region and related them back to the baseline assessment, identifying what activities need to be scaled up or adjusted to meet the needs of the landscape.

Proforest liaises with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which represents and coordinates the eight companies that support the programme: Cargill, Ecom, Lindt & Sprüngli, Mars, Mondelēz, Olam, Sucden and Touton. This approach provides us with a pre-competitive and collaborative group that works through WCF to engage with the landscape.

Group of sustainable cocoa farmers in Ghana
Photo by Proforest

All that we have learned from the baseline assessment, the key issues within the landscape and an approach to solving them, whether social or environmental, will inform the Management and Investment plan for Asunafo-Asutifi. Some actions will need to be funded and led by the private sector, others by the government, while other activities will need involvement of civil society and communities.

The management and investment plan for the landscape will be carried out through a governance structure, formulated through the emission reduction program. Activities from awareness and capacity building to technical training and implementation practices start here, within the landscape, to ensure the work cascades up and out through the cocoa supply chain so that all partners and parties are empowered to manage natural resources in the most responsible and sustainable way.

We hope to use this template of putting landscape at the core of our work in other locations to deliver and scale positive outcomes for people and planet. This case study will help you learn more about the Asunafo-Asutifi Landscape Program and our journey to develop a deforestation-free climate-resilient sustainable cocoa landscape.

Proforest’s work in Asunafo-Asutifi is part of the Production Landscape Program established in July 2018 with support from UK AID under the Forest, Governance, Markets & Climate Program.