Coping with Cocoa Complications:
How do economic factors impact land usage decisions of Ghanaian cocoa farmers?
Between maintaining their farms or selling their land to illegal miners, the decision is more about survival than anything else.
Erich Eberhard, Jessica Hicks, Adam Simon, and Brian Arbic
Kojo, a farmer in Ghana, has recently lost his inherited tract of cocoa plants to a fungal disease, which has forced him to cut down and restart his plot. A year has passed since his crop was planted, but he must wait another two to four years for the plot to mature enough to produce any cocoa fruit. This intermediary period threatens an extended period of hardship for Kojo and his family. It is already severely limiting his income, causing him to question his resolve to maintain the cocoa farm. Cocobod, the governing organization that is in place to help farmers like Kojo, can provide only so much assistance. Consequently, Kojo has to choose between keeping his farm or selling his land to illegal miners who will most likely raze his crops and deforest the land to seek out precious metals--and this would mean sacrificing his lifestyle along with his land.
Deforestation is one of the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges. According to a 2015 report from the FAO, 129 million hectares of forest have been lost worldwide since 1990 – an area nearly the size of South Africa. In 2016, Ghana had one of the highest national deforestation rates. Forests serve a wide range of important environmental roles: they act as carbon sinks and in doing so help regulate the world’s climate; they are home to an incredible range of wildlife, given that tropical forests are the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth; and they provide essential food, shelter, and fuel security to nearly two billion people worldwide.
This case will challenge you to consider the environmental consequences of economic growth through the decision-making process of a Ghanaian cocoa farmer. While this context may seem far removed from you personally, the global nature of the cocoa trade means that you have likely consumed Ghanaian cocoa yourself, and are therefore involved in some small way in the decision that Kojo has to make.