Futurepump Tour: Ghana, Smallholders and Cocoa Beans

Published Jun. 6, 2018

By Helen Davies for Futurepump

About Powering Agriculture

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that increase agriculture productivity and stimulate low carbon economic growth in the agriculture sector of developing countries to help end extreme poverty and extreme hunger.

Do you ever think about the country your chocolate comes from?

It is likely that it started its life in West Africa, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana topping the cocoa bean production charts.

As this month’s Futurepump Tour takes us to Ghana we thought we’d explore this major export crop and its link to both smallholders and irrigation.

Agriculture is essential to Ghana’s economy as it is the largest employer in the country – and a massive part of this success comes from the cocoa trade. In fact, for a crop only introduced to the country in the 19th century it is doing incredibly well, covering over half of the country’s cultivated land and making up 23% of Ghana’s export earnings.

What’s all the more impressive is that a huge amount, over 90%, of this cocoa farming is done by smallholders on plots of up to two hectares.

And it brings money too, with over 67% of smallholders average income coming from cocoa beans – it’s the main source of income for over 800,000 farmers.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion over the challenges that cocoa farming is seeing. It branches all pillars of sustainability, from the prices farmers get paid, to the environmental challenges caused by deforestation but also brought about by climate change.

Nevertheless, there is potential for much more and Ghana’s agricultural production could expand both in volume and diversity if smallholder farmers were equipped with the tools to expand their businesses and not be so reliant on the demand for cocoa export.

Recent studies show that diversification could be a bonus for agricultural biodiversity too.

Solar irrigation kit including panel and pump, assisting a group of farmers

Photo: Hatoum Trading & WRCF, Takoradi

Evidence of opportunity

The UN FAO in their smallholder irrigation report for Ghana state that agriculture is under-performing. Of the potential arable land, less than half is currently cultivated and much of this agricultural work is done in specific areas – such as the agricultural regions of the north.

And when you look into the systems and tools available to smallholders in the country it is a fascinating picture—one of opportunity and potential but with some clear challenges. Looking specifically at irrigation is particularly thought-provoking—a country of abundant water resources, serious agricultural potential, but little to no irrigation, especially on small farms.

Ghana’s major crops tend to rely on rain-fed irrigation, this poses significant risk to agriculture with variable seasons and threat of drought. Ghanaians have historically struggled to implement irrigation systems due to the price of technologies and installation and the lack of financial support. This means that it remains a relatively new concept within the country – untapped potential!

Hatoum Trading is a pioneer in this very sector. Realising the demand and potential for expanding smallholder agriculture. You can read more about them at this recent blog post. They distribute Futurepump solar irrigation pumps from their four branches across Ghana, sharing Futurepump's vision for low cost and reliable solar irrigation for smallholders. It is great to see how their work is bringing new technologies to the country…and maybe one day, in the near future, we could be eating chocolate irrigated by Futurepump solar irrigation pumps!

A graphic depicting Ghana's demographics, smallholder farmer data and Futurepump's distributor information

More about Ghana and their smallholder farmers

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