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Research has contributed to the development of Ghana's national strategies to reduce deforestation and support climate-smart approaches to cocoa farming in the Kakum region in southern Ghana.



Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa and responsible for around 25% of global production. Ghana’s cocoa production and climate change are closely interconnected. Cocoa farming contributes to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, while extended droughts, more intense heat and wetter wet seasons are already affecting cocoa yield.



Research led by a team at the Oxford School of the Environment, and collaboration with the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC), has analysed the social and ecological dimensions of cocoa production and how these are affected by climate change through the ECOLIMITS project and a follow-up project on the effects of 2015/16 El Niño events. The interdisciplinary, mixed-method research took place in the Kakum region in Ghana’s Central Region and was co-designed by academic and non-governmental partners.



The Oxford team and NCRC, the research partner organisation, organised a workshop in October 2017 with government decision-makers, representatives from cocoa/chocolate companies and active cocoa organisations. The research presented at the workshops directly influenced Ghana’s definition of climate-smart cocoa.

Insights from ECOLIMITS strengthened relationships between NCRC, the Forestry Commission and Cocoa Board which supported policy initiatives including Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme (GCFRP).

Findings from the ECOLIMITS research played an important role in shaping GCFRP’s Hotspot Intervention Areas, and provided compelling evidence to funders which has to further funding and benefits to cocoa farming communities.

The project also influenced a monitoring and evaluation scheme with a socioecological approach for the Kakum landscape. Data from the project are used on three indicators: canopy cover, shade trees, and multi-dimensional poverty. In 2020, NCRC started to train 11 members in the Kakum region who will undertake the monitoring.


More information

Institution: University of Oxford 

Researchers: Dr Mark Hirons, Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Dr Constance McDermott


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Building resilience to climate change with cocoa farmers in Ghana. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>