For five years now, the global community has been observing the International Day of Forests on March 21. It is an occasion to celebrate the wide range of economic and social benefits that forests and trees bring to humankind. Since joining the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) as its president in July 2016, I have been paying lots of attention to forests in West Africa, which is the world’s leading source of cocoa. These tropical forests, and others like them around the world, play an indispensable role in fighting global climate change by storing carbon. They also meet vital local needs, by cooling temperatures, helping generate rainfall, and purifying the air and water. Healthy forests help rural communities thrive. The paradox is that, over the last 10 years, life-giving forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana were felled at an alarming rate as cocoa farmers, faced with challenges such as low prices, climate change, and low productivity, have expanded the land area on which they grow cocoa. The crop, essential for the chocolate and cocoa products that many of us love, is now seen as a major driver of deforestation in these countries.
This is the fifth in our series of job market posts this year.
Once known as the “Safe Haven” of Western Africa, because of its long-standing political stability and economic success, Côte d’Ivoire plunged in a decade-long vicious circle of political violence after a coup d’état in December 1999. The level and scope of violence reached its peak in September 2002 when a coalition of three rebel movements, known as the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire (hereafter FNCI), occupied and tightened its grip over 60% of the country’s territory. Unlike other rebel movements in West African states such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, where territorial conquests were allegedly associated with “scorched-earth” and “denial-of-resource” tactics, the FNCI opted for an autonomous self-governance system.
History shows that investments in agriculture can be a catalytic force in the fight against hunger, poverty and malnutrition and a well-performing farm economy can be an instrument for achieving sustained structural economic transformation. Agricultural growth was the precursor to industrial growth in Europe and, more recently through the Green Revolution, in large parts of Asia and Latin America. The Green Revolution bypassed Africa.
When I was elected President of the Republic of Ghana in 2000, agriculture was a mainstay of the nation’s economy, accounting for 35% of its GDP, 55% of employment and 75% of export revenues. But it was a lagging, orphan sector, suffering from decades of neglect and lack of investment. Ghana’s agriculture had sadly changed little from the kind practiced generations ago. Farmers were still eking out a living, tilling the land by hand, much like their ancestors.
Improving coffee production and quality can help the country's economy, as well as around 2.5 million people who depend on this crop for their livelihood. See photo slideshow
The Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (known as PPAP), an ambitious program which is supporting coffee and cocoa farmers in six provinces in Papua New Guinea, just got a new financing boost. After just one year, the project is already reaching 4 percent of the country’s coffee and cocoa growers –18,000 small farmers who are dependent on these two cash crops for their livelihoods. Many more partnerships are in the pipeline.
Through the initiative, several NGOs, co-ops and businesses in coffee and cocoa are all helping deliver vital services to thousands of small farmers – such as training, planting materials, access to demonstration sites and certification schemes, as well as social services like gender, HIV/ AIDS awareness.
The idea is that such support will allow growers to produce more and better quality produce and see higher incomes, with benefits passing to families and communities, while also providing a significant and much-needed boost to the coffee and cocoa industries.
|Map courtesy of Wikipedia through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.|
Taking development to the outlying provinces of Solomon Islands is not an easy ride. I found this out when going on a site visit to the Rural Development Program (RDP) at the country’s far western province of Choiseul.
At the Northwest region of Choiseul province where the island faces open waters that span to the Micronesian archipelago of the Pacific lies a village called Polo. The Polo community has a primary school that was established in 1957 when Solomon Islands was still a British Protectorate, prior to independence in 1978. Since its inception, the Polo school never had a permanent classroom building until two years ago when through the RDP participatory process, the community identified the school as their main need.