Graham Sustainability Institute

Cut or Keep: Farmer Perceptions and Tree Management in Forested Cocoa and Coffee Agriculture

Project Photo

Project Team

Ivan Eastin - School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS)
Adam Simon - Literature, Arts & Science
Arun Agrawal - SEAS
Rebecca Hardin - SEAS 
Patrick Brandful Cobbinah - Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana
Demis Mengist Wudeneh - University of Gondar, Ethiopia

Project Summary

Coffee and cocoa cultivation are important industries in Ghana and Ethiopia, generating income for 11% and 16% of the population, respectively. In particular, they provide livelihoods for smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.

As farmers maintain or build new farms, they make complex decisions on whether to keep or remove forest trees. Traditional cocoa and coffee agroforestry occurs under the canopy of secondary forests, but increasingly farmers have been clearing their land to plant sun-tolerant varieties that produce a revenue more quickly than shade-grown species. This shift results in significant environmental degradation, and initial research suggests that farmers often misperceive the vital roles that forest trees play for the ecosystem and in mitigating crop risks to weather and pests.

To address this, the project team will work closely with agricultural organizations in both countries to better understand farmer knowledge and decision-making processes. This information is generally limited in Ghana and Ethiopia, a fact that hinders the ability of extension agents to work effectively with farmers. Using an exploratory case study approach, the project team will collect data using semi-structured interviews with farmers to understand individual farm contexts, relationships with surrounding forests, and how forest trees are used. Working with the Cocoa Board of Ghana and Ethiopia’s Jimma Agricultural Research Institute, the team will work collaboratively to develop training materials for effective farmer education.

Forest trees provide important social, economic, and environmental benefits, and by better understanding farmer management practices, they can be preserved as integral components to the agricultural landscape.

This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2019.