Ghana is the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa, but many of the country’s cocoa farmers are poor, trees are aging and highly vulnerable to pests and diseases, and productivity is low. However, many of these farmers can significantly increase their yields by applying good agricultural practices and basic investments in their farms, if they can be given advice and support that is specific to their needs.

Together with a small number of partners, the Rainforest Alliance was awarded a grant under the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) program from the Netherlands Space Office for the new SAT4Farming program. Through this program, Rainforest Alliance, Grameen Foundation, Water Watch Projects, Satelligence, Touton and the University of Ghana will use innovative technologies to develop a service that can reach up to 240,000 small holder cocoa farms and help them realize up to a 300% increase in yields.

Cutting-edge technologies

From 2018, the SAT4Farming program will start developing a digital service that can prepare, manage and monitor Farm Development Plans for individual cocoa farmers in Ghana. The service will use satellite imagery and digital tools to make Farm Development Plans more accurate, impactful and affordable. For instance, technical staff and advisors will use data, sourced from satellite imagery, on the environmental conditions of the farm, such as soil conditions, vicinity of rivers or forests, and plant condition, even before visiting the farm.

Subsequently, technical advisors will monitor the implementation and impact of the Farm Development Plans using satellite images. This digital service is expected to tremendously increase the efficiency and scalability of creating and monitoring tailored Farm Development Plans, as fewer field visits will be necessary and data informing the plans will be more precise.

Focus on young and female farmers

A key focus of the SAT4Farming program is on young and female farmers; both groups will make up about 30% of the farmers to be reached by the third project year. Introducing innovative technologies in cocoa farming is expected to make it more attractive to younger generations. Youth play a key role in the future of cocoa, especially because 56% of Ghanaian cocoa farmers are over the age of 50.

The program’s focus on women’s empowerment through technology will strengthen their position in the cocoa supply chain and improve their incomes, which is known to have positive effects on family health and nutrition.

Dedicated partners with complementary skills

The project partners have worked together previously and are well aligned to support Ghanaian cocoa farmers. Grameen Foundation, a global leader in digital innovations to end poverty, created the digital technology for the Farm Development Plans, originally deployed in Indonesia. It will build on this platform to incorporate remote sensing technology for SAT4Farming. Water Watch Projects and Satelligence will leverage their deep expertise in remote sensing to connect satellite imagery with Farm Development Plans.

The University of Ghana will focus on the monitoring and evaluation of the work, using among other their detailed knowledge of the Ghanaian context. The program will developed using the cocoa sector expertise of Touton, a leading commodity trader, and be piloted with Touton’s farmer network in Ghana.

Technology and Rainforest Alliance

Both UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance have explored and invested in technology for sustainable farming. For example, UTZ’s First Mile Program offers farmers digital tools to collect data from the field to improve their practices. The Rainforest Alliance’s Farmer Training App lets farmers access crucial information about climate-smart farming and share knowledge with each other.