By promoting best agricultural practice that boosts yields, minimises environmental damage and supports RSPO-certification, this project will increase incomes and welfare of Ghanaian oil-palm smallholders, provide multiple co-benefits for biodiversity of birds and insects in oil-palm and adjacent rainforest, and ensure robust land-use planning leading to protection of high-conservation-value rainforest.
Project Lead: University of Leeds, UK (Prof Keith Hamer; Dr Guy Ziv)
Partner 1: Nature Conservation Research Centre, Ghana (Dr Rebecca Asare)
Partner 2: University of York, UK (Prof Jane Hill; Dr Jennifer Lucey)
Partner 3: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana (Dr Winston Asante)
Partner 4: Solidaridad West Africa (Ms Rosemary Addico)
Partner 5: Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (Dr Soo Chin Oi)
Palm oil is a globally important edible oil that governments in western Africa are increasingly targeting as a key sector for agricultural growth and to address rural poverty. Most oil-palm growers in the region are smallholder farmers who rely on cultivation for both income and household consumption. For instance in Ghana, ~90% of the land cultivated for oil-palm (~400,000ha) comprises smallholdings. Ghana also supports >550 species of rainforest birds, of which about 20 are globally threatened according to the IUCN, and >900 species of butterflies, of which about 100 are endemic to western Africa and threatened by forest loss. Ghana plans to expand smallholdings by a further 150,000ha over the next 5-10 years, making it vital to provide smallholders with tools and guidance to help them develop sustainable agricultural practices that optimise economic returns, reduce biodiversity losses and environmental threats, and ensure the protection of high conservation value rainforest; hence the need for this project.
Growing markets in sustainably-sourced palm oil provide ideal opportunities for smallholders in Ghana to boost their incomes through take-up of best agricultural practice (BAP) to increase yields, reduce economic and environmental costs of reliance on fertilizers and pesticides, and increase crop value through RSPO-certification as sustainable growers. Certification also ensures a commitment by smallholders to the continued protection of rainforest that supports high conservation values (HCVs). However, smallholder uptake of both BAP and RSPO-certification is very low, largely through uncertainties over the yield benefits attainable from BAP, poor knowledge of how to apply BAP, and a lack of scientifically-robust and cost-effective means for smallholders to identify and prioritise HCV-forest for sustained protection, as required for certification. By addressing these issues, this project will promote sustainable oil-palm cultivation that boosts smallholders’ incomes and ensures the long-term protection of rainforest supporting high biodiversity.
This project will: