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Climate change is hitting yields of cocoa in Ghana and taking farmers “back to zero”, they have warned.

Cocoa farmers in the Ahafo region of the west African country say climate change is bringing more erratic rainfall, with drought in formerly rainy periods and unseasonal downpours, so seedlings fail and yields are down.

There are also more pests and diseases, and on monoculture farms, which have no shade trees to protect the cocoa, it is being scorched by the sun.

One farmer, Emmanuel Obinim, said he has seen his harvest drop from 50 bags in the past to 17 bags last year.

Farming has always been difficult, but at least you were benefiting from it. Now, as there is climate change, you’re not getting as much as you used to,” he said.

The fall in incomes from cocoa has coincided with the cost-of-living crisis that is pushing up the price of everything from food to transport and building materials for constructing homes.

Farmers are a part, governments are a part, the whole world – all these people are important to mitigate climate change

John Asaseba, cocoa farmer

Mr Obinim said farmers are having to take their children out of good schools and send them to cheaper, less good schools.

He wants his children to go to school and find careers away from cocoa farming.

And among some farmers there is talk of switching to crops such as maize which is cheaper and quicker to produce and gives a similar return.

Gabriel Sie Kwadwo, a cocoa farmer with a household of 10, said their standard of living has greatly reduced because of climate change, adding “it brings you back to zero”.

Conditions are particularly hard for women, who have responsibility for tending the growing cocoa as well as taking their children to school and looking after households, which is a made difficult when unseasonal downpours and flooding hit.

On the ground in Ghana, projects to tackle the crisis include a climate-friendly dynamic agroforestry cocoa scheme which plants cocoa seedlings among shade trees and other crops to protect yields from climate change, store carbon and provide added income for farmers.

There are also projects to plant shade trees on established cocoa farms, reforest unproductive land, and provide clean cook stoves that use far less firewood.

Ataa Gifty, a climate advocate and trainer for the dynamic agroforestry programme run by Fairtrade Africa and other partners, said she has seen climate impacts on cocoa, including hotter temperatures and a lack of water for irrigation on farms – but her farm is doing better due to the scheme.

“Sometimes, as a woman, I feel happy, sometimes I feel very worried because of our future – what is going to be our future with climate change.”

Sitting next to her during an unseasonal downpour, fellow cocoa farmer John Asaseba said: “If we don’t change, in 20 years’ time our children won’t have any future.

“Farmers are a part, governments are a part, the whole world – all these people are important to mitigate climate change.”

Fairtrade campaigners are calling on governments meeting at Cop27 talks in Egypt to deliver on the promised 100 billion US dollars in climate finance to help poorer countries and communities on the front line of global warming – and make sure it delivers programmes for smallholder farmers.

And farmers are clear that they need a better price for their cocoa.

Lucy Twenewaa, one of the first pioneers of the dynamic agroforestry scheme, said people should buy more Fairtrade chocolate.

She has seen the benefit of Fairtrade, which pays higher prices for cocoa and a premium for farmers to invest in their businesses and communities, and has received Fairtrade’s living income price for her cocoa from Swiss chocolate company Halba, enabling her to pay for schooling and invest in her farm.

“Fairtrade has really catapulted us to a level to be able to take care of ourselves,” she said.

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