Cocoa Production in Ghana: A Mechanism for Biodiversity Conservation

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When it comes to intensive farming systems, many rural farmers face a trade-off between agricultural production and biodiversity . In order to protect the biodiversity, farmers must sacrifice agricultural production. Hence, the challenge is to continuously expand food production while bearing no negative effects on biodiversity. These negative effects widely include deforestation, disrupting ecosystem integrity and species viability. In light of these issues, better farming technologies and natural resource management practices along with improved agricultural policies are required. This brings up the question of how to protect wild species and conserve habitat while increasing agricultural production and farmer’s incomes?
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Cocoa agroforests in particular, can create forest-like habitats, harboring tropical biodiversity in degrading lands . It is claimed that to date, biological diversity in cocoa production has been poorly studied, especially in the context of ecoagriculture, which is referred to as “land-use systems managed for both agricultural production and wild biodiversity conservation” . Ecoagriculture can be considered the future of landscape management as it helps to preserve species and increase the productivity of the land while enabling the rural poor.
The cocoa sector in Ghana provides livelihoods for over 700,000 farmers in the country . Since 1990s, world cocoa prices have steadily increased (with the exception of 1998 – 2000 and 2003 – 2006) . Hence, the steady increase in prices combined with farmers being paid a higher share of the price, has offered farmers increasing real producer prices. Even so, the ongoing environmental impact of existing farming practices may affect rural livelihoods. Trees have been cut down in large numbers to accommodate the open-field hybrid variety of coca, which grows in full sun conditions . According to Kolavalli and Vigneri (2010), “the damage to cocoa trees from capsid attacks tends to be higher for cocoa trees growing in full sun than for those in shaded systems” . Hence, the best possible environmental alternative to the
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