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Planting new tree species on existing cocoa plots can take us a long way towards the production of climate and forest friendly cocoa. As part of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, cocoa and chocolate companies are running projects to ensure that several cocoa growing communities in Ghana are provided with seedlings to plant a diversity of shade tree species on their land. They also benefit from training to learn how to care for those trees and make the most of their economic, nutritional, and environmental benefits.
Isaac Arhin, 35, explains: “The training program we received about the benefits of planting trees reminded us of when our fathers were in charge: the cocoa trees that were in the shade were doing better than the others. We needed this sensitization training as a “wake-up call” to realize that we should plant shade trees again. Now that we have, we see that the cocoa protected from the sun gives higher yields and larger beans. I planted more seedlings around the whole farm to protect the palm trees too. To date, I only covered 5 out of my 10 acres farm with shade trees and I am looking forward to receiving more seedlings for the rest.
His fellow cocoa farmer Kofi Ameyaw, 50, adds: “I live with my wife and 8 children, and I mainly cultivate cocoa to earn my income. When we received the training about the benefits of planting shade trees, I accepted the message. I planted the shade tree seedlings provided by the program at vantage points on my farm so when the sun shines, shade keeps the soil moist. Aside cocoa, I cultivate tomatoes, garden eggs, and rice and planted pear, mango, and yam to feed my household and visitors. Over the years, we have realized the various benefit of the shade trees.”
When asked about the effects of climate change and the role of their children in keeping the forest alive, the two farmers responded that they were transmitting the knowledge to their family members to ensure the resilience of the trees.
“I have taken it up to teach my children about the climate and the benefits of trees every time we go to the farm, so they appreciate their value for the future,” says Kofi Ameyaw. “I explain the need to fill the spots left by dead cocoa trees with new shade trees. I describe how to favor the shade trees which leaves won’t fall during the harmattan/dry season, so they keep protecting the cocoa and other plantations from the scorching sun. We are also trying to plant trees in the open areas, outside of the farms, to improve our environment. In the past, the temperature was not as high as what we are experiencing today. If we don’t protect the cocoa, the children who may have interest in farming when they grow older, will face difficulties. If we continuously teach them instead, they will grow up appreciating and caring for the environment.”