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Cocoa Not Destroyer But Restorer Of Forest - Europeans Told   
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The Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, has urged European chocolate processing companies and international civil society groups campaigning for the protection of forests, to disabuse their minds of their long-held perception that cocoa farming results in deforestation.

Deforestation has been a major ethical concern of the international community because of its impact on global warming and climate change. Quite often, cocoa farming has been blamed as a major driver. Chocolate companies under the pressure of forest-concerned consumers particularly in Europe have in recent times threatened to boycott cocoa beans from forest areas in the West African countries of Ghana and la Côte d’Ivoire.

 Addressing the General Assembly for Swiss Chocolate producers in Zürich, Mr Aidoo stated categorically that he did not subscribe to the conventional thinking that cocoa farming in Ghana was a cause to deforestation. Rather, the practice was a way to forest restoration.
 Mr Aidoo first and foremost drew a distinction between reserved or protected forests and unreserved or off-reserved forests, which both constitute forests. In Ghana, the unreserved forest area represents about 80 per cent of the total land area. It is held by the customary sector, and that is where almost all economic and productive activities have taken place over the years. The remaining forest is in the 20 per cent enclave, placed as State reserved/protected forest areas and administered and controlled by state institutions. Any farming activity whatsoever in the reserved/protected forest area is illegal.

In Ghana, cocoa farming has taken place in the unreserved forest area of the equatorial belt. He explained that even though cocoa is cultivated in the forest zone, the practice in itself has not been the initiator of deforestation. Historically, timber logging and lumbering have triggered deforestation in the country, and subduing the original virgin forests to pave the way for cocoa farmers to follow. It is a well known fact that cocoa farmers always followed the trails of timber loggers to cultivate the already depleted forest vegetation into cocoa farms.

He cited studies into migration of cocoa farmers in Ghana which have established that logging right from the 19th century was the primary cause of deforestation and degradation in Ghana. For decades up to the 1970s, therefore, round logs shipments from the port of Takoradi ended up in Europe - he pointed out. Without reducing the natural forest to depletion levels there was no way cocoa farming could have succeeded in the country. The small holder farmers using simple implements did not have the strength and wherewithal to do that.

“So, in effect, it is not cocoa farmers who are the cause of deforestation,” he stressed.

“But now, the general belief is that cocoa is causing deforestation. I beg to differ,” he added.

Cocoa farming in Ghana, according to the COCOBOD boss, is an agro-forestry practice, featuring intercropping.

“Cocoa is a forest plant and thrives in the mixture of other forest plants. In Ghana, therefore, it is intercropped with other other forest trees; timber trees, some of which grow the height of 40 and 45 meters to provide permanent shade,” he said.
 “Cocoa is also intercropped with food crops. We have plantains. We have bananas. And we have cocoyams (taro).”
 These are staple foods in Ghana and they do well with cocoa trees, which in turn thrive best when in coexistence,” he stated.

Monocroping as found in places such as Ecuador, is not a dominant practice in Ghana. In a way, the practice in Ghana brings about forest restoration and regenerative vegetation which is positive for the tropical forest equation.
He went on to highlight the importance of the Ghanaian practice of cocoa intercropping which enormously contributes to carbon sequestration and reduction in greenhouse effect. He argued that cocoa farming makes Ghana a net exporter of oxygen, and called for a global carbon audit. Such an audit should inform a global regulation to let countries and regions such as China, America and Europe which are the giants in the greenhouse emissions and thus net exporters of CO2 compensate the net oxygen exporters, like Ghana.
 Cocoa farming as practiced in Ghana as he indicated can be used as a vehicle restores and add to the forest stock in areas that have undergone deforestation and degradation. This way, cocoa can contribute even more to carbon stocks and the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Source: Peacefmonline.com

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