Postcards from the field: Learning from small-scale farmers to become a sustainable cocoa ‘agripreneur’

By: Margaret Arwari

30 October 2020

Photo: Emmanuel Asiwome Drovou in a cocoa field.

Emmanuel Asiwome Drovou is a second-year MPhil in agribusiness student at the University of Ghana’s College of the Basic and Applied Sciences. He was born and raised in Ho, a small city in the Volta Region of Ghana, an area notable for its extraordinary scenic beauty. Drovou comes from a family of subsistence farmers, which motivated him to pursue degrees related to agriculture both at undergraduate and graduate levels. ‘’I gained a lot of practical experience in agriculture at home,’’ said the 27-year-old student.

Since October 2020, Drovou has been working as a field enumerator with the Forest and Horticultural Crops Research Center (FOHCREC) of the University of Ghana. Part of the project Governing Multifunctional Landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa (GML), funded by the European Union and coordinated by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), his assignment consists of interviewing small-scale cocoa farmers in order to learn more on the effect of sustainable production practices on their productivity and income.

His research focuses on cocoa farmers in the Kwaebibirem district, located in the Eastern Region of Ghana,  near the Atewa forest range – a protected area rich in biodiversity that is threatened by agricultural expansion.

Photos: Emmanuel Asiwome Drovou interviews cocoa farmers.

“I am learning a lot from these farmers,” said Drovou. “For example, when the farmers plant cocoa seedlings, they intercrop cocoa with plantain, cassava and cocoyam. These food crops act as shade for the cocoa seedlings until the trees mature and form a canopy. However, these crops are mostly eaten at home and do not represent an alternative source of income for farmers, since they depend largely on cocoa production,” he added.

Cocoa production is overall good business, according to Drovou. “Some farmers reported reinvesting the income of bumper cocoa harvests in more cocoa production in the following seasons,” he said. “Other farmers acknowledged that in the past they had to downsize their land or sell some parcels because they were facing some challenges. But now they are ready to expand and acquire more land for cocoa production.”

As farmers strive to expand their cocoa production and improve productivity, we need to prevent further deforestation of the nearby Atiwa forest, warned Drovou. “We need to ensure that forests continue delivering benefits for people,” he said.

Drovou dreams of becoming an ‘agripreneur’ and create businesses in the agriculture field that can support livelihoods and sustainable food production. “The research that I am conducting with FOHCREC and CIFOR will help me better understand the cocoa agribusiness space, and who knows, perhaps I can come up with business ideas that can help solve some of the sustainability challenges in the sector,” said Drovou.

When asked why he wants to support sustainable agriculture and protect Ghana’s forests, the student answered: “On the route to my hometown, I go through Dodowa, a beautiful forest with thousands of important herbs. Nothing can beat the kind of serenity and breeze I experience when I visit.”

Photo: Emmanuel Asiwome Drovou conducts a plot survey in a cocoa farm.