ACCRA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- A change in the agro-technical methods used in the production of cocoa is critical to reversing deforestation and effects of Climate Change in West Africa, an expert told Xinhua here on Thursday.
Richard Asare, Coordinator, Cocoa Research for Development at CocoaSoils, a four-nation West African initiative, said the Cocoa growing countries in West Africa have therefore initiated a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project aimed at reducing the spate of deforestation occasioned by cocoa cultivation.
Speaking to Xinhua to climax the annual forum of CocoaSoils held here, the expert expressed confidence that the UN Supported project will in the long run help farmers in Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Nigeria to increase yield but at the same time ensure that forests were also preserved.
"CocoaSoils is to work together with nationals that are involved with cocoa production to improve productivity; and to make sure that we help farmers improve upon their livelihoods."
"And if we are able to do that we produce cocoa on a smaller area compared to expanding into forests to cause deforestation and deprive society of the eco-system and services that these forests produce," Asare emphasized.
Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire produce about 60 percent of the world's cocoa output, but this comes with a heavy ecological price as the expansion of cocoa farms also means mass deforestation.
Because productivity in West Africa ranges between 200 kg and 600 kg per hectare, farmers are compelled to keep expanding their farms year after year in seeking to increase their incomes. This ends up degrading the natural forest and all critical forest products.
Realizing the present and looming dangers of Climate Change, cocoa growing countries are beginning to modify their husbandry methods to make cocoa growing sustainable.
"But in all we realized that the fundamental problem comes from how do we feed the crop to give us the yield that we want. And the agenda was to come up with a program that will solve the fundamental problem of soil fertility management," Asare added.
If the project which adopts an Integrated Soil Fertility Management approach becomes successful, he believed it will help farmers improve their productivity but at the same time reduce the rate of forest degradation.
Emmanuel Agyemang-Dwomoh, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) pledged the support of the state cocoa industry regulator to ensuring the success of the CocoaSoil project.
"With the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) as the focal point in Ghana and key implementer, COCOBOD will make all the required resources available to ensure the success of the program," Agyemang-Dwomoh added.
Currently, Asian countries including Indonesia as well as Latin American cocoa growing countries have also joined the CocoaSoils initiative, as the projected outcomes look more sustainable than current practices.