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Cocoa Carbon: Carbon Finance to Improve Sustainability of Cocoa Production


To test whether carbon finance can play a pivotal role in shifting cocoa farming onto a more sustainable path, through a number of potential REDD-Plus activities.   Cocoa is the key foreign exchange earner in Ghana, supports nearly 30% of the population, and is an important driver of deforestation due to unsustainable management practices.

How it will work: 

The Incubator and Nature Conservation Research Centre are working with farmer organizations, cocoa buyer organizations in the Bonsambepo Landscape, a corridor including six Forest Reserves of high biodiversity value (key species include Chimpanzee, Bongo, Forest Buffalo, and the White-Necked Rock Fowl, which was previously thought to be extinct in Ghana) surrounded by a mosaic of settlements, cocoa farms, food crop farms, and fallow lands.  

Overall, the initiative aims to pilot the development of REDD+ / agricultural carbon credits that will focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation by:

  1. Reducing emissions from forest degradation and enhancing above ground and below ground carbon stocks;
  2. Improving the overall productivity and ecological resilience of the cocoa farming system through access to associated agronomic and economic resources; and
  3. Improving livelihoods from increased farming income and access to other project benefits.

More specifically, the strategy is to avoid forest degradation by preventing community members from encroaching into forested areas to establish new farms, and encouraging them not to cut down mature forest trees in replanting old cocoa farms (REDD). In addition, it will focus on carbon stock enhancement (CSE) through the planting of shade trees or enabled natural regeneration in new/young farms (REDD+).  The initiative could also target enhancement of soil carbon stocks through improved farming practices (Agricultural Carbon).  Furthermore, it plans to use the associated carbon-based financing to leverage other potential streams of revenue and benefits, including certification (which brings a premium of at least $150/ton of cocoa), and access to extension services and credit facilities that will enable significant increases in on-farm productivity.

It is expected that at full implementation, the activities within the Bonsambepo landscape will cover 60,000 ha of the cocoa farming landscape (off-reserve) and possibly another 20,000-50,000 ha within the forest reserves.

Project Development Support: 

Forest Trends is working with Nature Conservation Research Centre, who jointly host the West Africa Incubator, to develop this project including:

  • Site selection support
  • Development of technical feasibility assessments
  • Economic analysis of the costs and benefits of proposed cocoa carbon investments
  • Investor outreach
  • Development of a carbon map of Ghana which will facilitate the establishment of baselines and potential monitoring, reporting, and validation work on site. (with Oxford University)

Project Partners: Nature Conservation Research Center
Project Details: Cocoa Carbon Feasibility Assessment; Cocoa Carbon Initiative Site Selection Report;
Location: Ghana
Project Types: REDD, Agroforestry, Forest Conservation  
Biome: Tropical High Forest
Hectares: 60,000+
Status: Feasibility / Development
Developer: Katoomba Incubator West Africa and Nature Conservation Research Centre
Contact: Rebecca Ashley Asare [rasare[at]]
Last Updated: Nov 2010