A policy that grants farmers ownership of timber trees on cocoa farms in Ghana could help boost yields and curb deforestation,

cocao

according to government officials and an industry group.

Trees grow naturally on many cocoa farms, providing shade for the delicate crop. But they belong to the state, not the farmers, according to the West African country’s forestry laws.

Companies pay the government a fee to log the timber, while cocoa farmers lose out, because their crops are often damaged in the process and become less productive under full sun.

But a little-known provision included in the forestry laws allows farmers to register ownership of timber trees that they have planted themselves.

Although the provision is not new, it had never been tested until this year, under a pilot project backed by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) in the Amenfi West district.

“We are educating farmers about their rights. They didn’t know this was possible,” said Alex Tweneboa-Kodna, a forestry commission manager in Asankragua, the district capital.

The project helped 150 farmers register ownership of timber on their farms. The WCF said it aims to spread the practice throughout Ghana, which is the world’s second biggest cocoa producer after Ivory Coast.

(Reuters)