Back from a trip to Ghana, the Rainforest Alliance’s climate program assistant Kassy Holmes shares how education and training is helping smallholder cocoa farmers understand and adapt to climate change.
In tropical countries like Ghana, smallholder farmers are on the frontlines of climate change. They are seeing firsthand the effects of changing weather patterns, including a heightened dry season and a shortened harmattan–a West African trade wind that brings dry, dusty air and cool temperatures to an otherwise sweltering region.
However, many communities lack access to climate change education—a vital tool to help them understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Rainforest Alliance is working to change this with a comprehensive project to educate and train cocoa farmers in Ghana’s Bia-Juabeso region.
Since 2009, we have worked with 36 communities across 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) of farmland in the Bia-Juabeso region, implementing sustainable agroforestry techniques that generate benefits for the community and the local and global climate. To date, 1,259 farms have been Rainforest Alliance Certified against the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standards. These farms are also pursuing verification against the SAN Climate Module, which promotes practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase on-farm carbon sequestration and help farmers identify and adapt to a changing climate.
This work marks a huge milestone in the global cocoa market. Ghana’s cocoa farmers will be the first to undertake certified, climate-smart agricultural practices–bringing to market the world’s first climate-friendly cocoa. The cocoa will be distributed by Olam, an internationally recognized leader in processing and sourcing agricultural commodities.
Education and training that allows farmers to understand how climate change is meaningful and relevant to their everyday lives is a critical element of the Rainforest Alliance’s efforts in Ghana. Building off of our previously developed climate change curriculum for students and teachers, we’ve sought to build the adaptive capacity of farmers through community training that takes into account local conditions and farmer perspectives. This approach includes:
- Focusing on local climate change impacts
- Assessing the impacts of climate change on cocoa farming
- Discussing specific climate-smart practices that farmers can implement on their own, such as composting and protecting shade trees
- Using visuals, posters and local examples to reinforce scientific concepts
- Hosting workshops that accommodate farmers’ busy schedules
- Allowing ample time for discussion, debate and knowledge-sharing
By focusing on local conditions and the direct impact of climate change on farmers’ lives, these workshops help farmers to grasp the personal and global implications of climate change. This provides a foundation upon which to explain the science behind climate change and the contribution of local activities (like deforestation) to the problem.
We’re already seeing some great examples of the ways that education can be used as a tool to empower farmers. I had the opportunity to attend a community workshop and witnessed farmers making commitments to educate their friends and families about climate change, and to do their part to help mitigate climate change by protecting shade trees and composting on their farms. These education efforts also serve as a way to reinforce the practices and concepts farmers implement by becoming Rainforest Alliance Certified, helping them better adapt to shifting climatic conditions.
In the coming months, the Rainforest Alliance will facilitate education workshops for dozens of lead farmers in Ghana who recently achieved certification. These farmers will then go on to hold workshops for hundreds of other farmers within their communities. Collectively, through increased education about climate change, community agroforestry and Rainforest Alliance certification, cocoa farmers in Bia-Juabeso will be equipped with the technical skills and knowledge needed to understand climate change, adapt to its impacts and cultivate continued, sustainable livelihoods.
Learn more about the Rainforest Alliance’s climate work with cocoa farmers in Ghana.