A matter of time horizon: Cocoa farmers and agroforestry in a changing climate

Authors: Mette Olwig*, Roskilde University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Africa
Keywords: cocoa, agroforestry, climate change, Ghana, adaptation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 6:25 AM / 7:40 AM
Room: Virtual 14
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

What are the socioeconomic and institutional factors influencing cocoa farmers’ ability to adapt to climate change by engaging in ameliorative cultivation practices such as agroforestry? This paper argues that time horizons play an important role. Climate change has already impacted rainfall and temperatures in Ghana, but is likely to create more dramatic changes in the future. Agroforestry makes cocoa farms more resilient to climatic changes and it also transforms the farms from monoculture to polyculture, thereby diversifying risks and generating additional produce. Agroforestry entails the intercropping of larger shade and fruit bearing trees with smaller cocoa trees that also provide shade for lower growing crops. In addition to shade, these trees and crops produce fruits, timber and nutrients. But many of the tree species used in agroforestry will take years before these intended effects materialize. While climate change is threatening cocoa production, and agroforestry may provide a solution, both of these phenomena operate at long time-scales. However, many cocoa farmers are dealing with challenges that more urgently threaten their ability to continue cocoa farming and maximize outputs. These include insecure land use rights, fires and competing alternative, and seemingly lucrative, uses of the land – such as galamsey, or selling land for infrastructure or large-scale mining. This paper shows how for some farmers the ability to confront pressing challenges and engage in longer-term strategizing, like agroforestry, has only been possible because of the introduction of various research and extension projects that through immediate inputs and resources make long-term planning feasible.

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