Fairtrade has been implementing projects relating to climate change and environmental sustainability in West Africa through partnership initiatives such as Alliances for Sankofa and Dignity for All Programme. Working with over 318 certified cooperatives representing over 300,000 farmers and workers across West Africa, Fairtrade Africa builds farmers’ capacity in climate resilience, livelihood enhancement and improving social conditions.
Fairtrade’s unique, approach helps farmers become more resilient to climate change, whilst at the same time giving consumers, retailers and traders the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint. All this is underpinned by the Fairtrade Climate Standard. In addition, Fairtrade standards focus on good agricultural practices that enable farmers to address climate change through mitigative and adaptive methodologies and technologies.
Alliances for Sankofa project
Alliances for Sankofa project is a five-year project which aims to establish 400 hectares of dynamic agroforestry plots within the five-year period. The project was piloted in 2018 and started in 2019. Alliances for Sankofa is supported by the Coop Sustainability Fund and Chocolats Halba, the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa (SWISSCO) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Max Havelaar Foundation Switzerland. It is implemented by ITC together with the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union Limited (KKFU) and partners including the Government of Ghana, Fairtrade Africa, WWF Switzerland and the Yam Development Council. Technical support to the project is provided by Ecotop Suisse GmbH, South Pole and the Nature and Development Foundation (NDF).
The project adopts the dynamic agroforestry system of farming, a system of agroforestry which seeks to mimic the original habitat of cocoa to create the enabling environment for the cocoa plants to thrive and bear much fruits even though there may be changes in climatic conditions. This system of farming combines the cultivation of cocoa with timber trees, fruit trees, coconut, non-timber tree species, cashew and a number of food crops on the same piece of land. Some major characteristics of DAF are the accumulation of biomass on the surface of the soil and the practice of no burning. By accumulating biomass and practicing no burning, the soil moisture is conserved and this therefore prevents the cocoa seedlings from dying. Also, by practicing no burning, the amount of CO2 that hitherto would have been emitted into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming has been reduced. 100.25 hectares of new cocoa farms have so far been established under the Sankofa project, without burning.
As part of activities to support the producers to adapt to the climate change situations, the Sankofa project also supports the producers to cultivate other annual crops as means of diversifying their income streams. Some of these crops includes maize, yam, vegetables, mucuna, carnavalia, pigeon pea etc. The project also links the producers to the market where these crops are sold to augment the income they get from the sale of their cocoa. This greatly supports the producers financially, during the lean season where cocoa trees do not bear much fruits.
Emelia Debrah is a farmer in Sankore-Alavanyo in the Asunafo South district of Ahafo region of Ghana. She was originally selling kenkey but managed to convince her husband to give her a piece of land where she started growing cocoa and yam. She is now a Lead Farmer under the Alliances for Sankofa project. Emelia has benefitted a lot from this project. She says: “From the 2018 season, I was able to harvest maize. I recorded the highest harvested maize out of the fifteen other farmers on the project. I have used this maize and some maize bought from other farmers for my kenkey business. I sold yam, mucuna, canavalia, fresh okro and okro powder, pepper, plantain which were all grown on the same piece of land. This increased my income to about eighty percent”.
“Through this, I have been able to support my husband in the upkeep of the family. The cocoa alone was not fetching enough money for the family, but this system of alternative livelihoods has helped a lot. I have been able to register my children and grandchildren on the health insurance scheme. I have also been able to purchase adequate learning materials for my children: new school uniforms, their daily money for snacks at school and even buy them decent clothes,” Emelia added.
Dignity for All Cocoa Climate Change project
Under its Dignity for All Cocoa Climate Change project, Fairtrade seeks to empower the most marginalized Fairtrade-certified Cocoa farmers by strengthening their assets and capabilities, building resilient agro-based trade systems and societies to help farmers earn sustainable livelihoods. This project is one of the eight projects under the Dignity for All (D4A) Impact Programme funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Finland with further support from commercial partners and National Fairtrade Organizations (NFOs). The ever-growing threat of climate change faced by smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana has necessitated a holistic approach to emphasize the role of promoting biodiversity and conservation of forests. This action as part of any cocoa livelihood diversification project will regenerate the ecosystem on which farmers depend and improve productivity sustainably.
The project entails the roll out of improved energy-saving cookstoves and Dynamic agroforestry innovations in an effort to reduce the impacts of climate change and unsustainable land use practices. Through these activities it is envisaged that the amount of carbon in the air will be reduced making farmers eligible for Fairtrade carbon credits that will contribute to their living income as developed in partnership with Gold Standard.
Nana Kwaku Owusu, is a local chief Dwatuohene of the Goaso Traditional Council in Ghana who took part in a stakeholder engagement training organised by Fairtrade: “I am committed to educating my people tackling climate change”, he said.
Fairtrade Africa has outlined its 2021 2025 strategic plan which addresses climate by focusing on sustainable farming systems among other pillars. Under its sustainable farming systems strategic pillar, the organisation aims at strengthening its collaboration and capacity building to farmers.