Empowering Producers to Protect Biodiversity

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By assisting producers around the Bia National Park to adopt best and biodiversity-friendly practices, there is enhancement of ecosystem health that is favorable for cocoa production, increased yield and farmer welfare and conservation of biodiversity in the area.

 

Farmers pay attention to Field Trainer during a classroom session at the community center. Photograph by Vincent Awotwe-Pratt

The Context

 

Many environmental concerns today, including biodiversity loss, climate change and water availability can be attributed to agriculture. Some agricultural activities that lead to these damages include introduction of invasive species, erosion and deforestation, runoff of pesticides, fertilizers and animal wastes. These interactions must be considered to enable sustainable use of resources like water, soil, biodiversity and fossil fuels. Cocoa has been the backbone of the Ghanaian economy with about 720,000 farmers and their families depending on cocoa for their livelihood. Cocoa production which is predominantly grown in forest areas has been one of the main drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss.

 

The Approach

 

With financial support from the BACP, Conservation Alliance with its collaborators initiated a project to mainstream biodiversity conservation into the cocoa growing landscape in the Bia Conservation Area. Under this initiative, producers have been sensitized on the need to protect their environment, observe wildlife laws and mitigate conflicts between elephants and humans.

 

 

Farmers hang ‘No Hunting” signs in their farms to educate the public and also to enforce the rule to protect biodiversity. Photograph by Vincent Awotwe-Pratt

 

Farmers living in 12 communities in the Bia Conservation Area have been sensitized on the need to conserve biodiversity with some of these farmers also trained in best management practices in cocoa production. To facilitate the adoption of best management practices by farmers, a training manual which is a revised version of various training manuals that are used to train farmers within the West African sub-region has been developed to cover current and emerging issues within the cocoa growing landscape. Topics treated included selection of good and viable planting materials, farm management and hygiene, integrated crop and pest management, post-harvest issues, financial literacy and human-elephant conflict mitigation issues. Training was delivered using the modified version of the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach with both classroom and field demonstration sessions.

 

This was done to ensure that farmers are able to apply technical knowledge that is acquired through this project on their own farms with the supervision of the field extension a gents providing backstopping.

 

Impacts

 

As a result of this intervention, more than 3500 farmers and their families living in the Bia Conservation Area have been educated on biodiversity and climate change issues using a number of approaches including community meetings, durbars, and media campaigns using community information centers. Also 500 farmers selected from 12 communities were enrolled into various farmer field schools which were established within the communities. These farmers were taken through the various stages of cocoa production and also their facilitating skills enhanced to enable them deliver training to other farmers in the area. It is expected that each of these farmers will train 3 more farmers in the next 2 years. By this cascading model, it is expected that all farmers will be trained after sometime in the project area.