Meet the maize farmer who thrives on ashes of destroyed forest

Hundreds of farmers like Christiana Akwabea are benefitting from a project that repurposes degraded forest land in the country

For years, Christiana Akwabea admired the vast fields she visited in neighbouring districts to buy maize for reselling and dreamed of one day owning a plot of land where she could grow the staple crop.

But there was not much land for commercial farming in Seikwa in the Bono Region, and the local soil is more suitable for cultivating cashew and yam.

In 2017, the mother of six got her wish fulfilled through forest plantation management company Form Ghana, which received a loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a transformative forestry project.

After registering as a farmer with the Form Ghana programme, Akwabea received land that had once been a forest in Berekum, about 30 km from Seikwa.

She harvested around 6,800 kg of maize from the five-hectare field through intercropping, which involves simultaneously cultivating multiple crops on a particular plot farmland.

“I had always wondered about how I would get farmland for maize and even get money to clear and spray it. But now, all I wait for at the beginning of every farming season is a call from Form Ghana to complete the registration and land will be allocated to me for farming.

“The memory of this alone is encouraging and gives me a sense of reliability. I’m not burdened with how I will get land and money to prepare the field,” Christiana Akwabea said.

Christiana Akwabea

Form Ghana partnered with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Forest Investment Programme of the Climate Investment Funds and the government of Ghana, to undertake an innovative public-private partnership in its forest sector. The project entails the reforestation of degraded forest areas in the country.

The state of Ghana’s forests has been in decline since the 1970s due to severe overpopulation. Ghana now has over 300,000 hectares of highly degraded forest reserve land.

Illegal farming

To address the issue, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Forest Investment Programme of the Climate Investment Funds agreed in 2016 to fund the restoration of degraded forest reserves through the Certified Plantation project, financed through a US$10 million concessional loan from the Climate Investment Funds and US$14 million from the AfDB.

In the forests managed by Form Ghana, illegal farming was widespread in the past. The company currently offers 629 farmers the option to participate in intercropping.

“Form Ghana sets an example for me as a chief. Amongst my community members, I now promote the planting of trees as a long-term investment. This will give farmers additional income,” said Osabarima Ofori Mensah, chief of Oforikrom in Berekum.

The Form Ghana project offers a replicable model for larger-scale debt finance for plantation expansion.

“This project and the collaboration between African Development Bank and Form Ghana Ltd. can be a very important step towards enabling the expansion of large-scale reforestation and landscape restoration projects in Africa,” said Paul Hol, executive director, Form Ghana Ltd.

The possibilities are already evident for Christiana and her household. She looks forward to doubling the size of her current acreage and has great ambitions for her family.

“I have been able to put up a two-bedroom house. I also funded my son’s trip to attend school in Europe and all my children are in school,” she said.

“I aim to expand my current residence into a full compound house with the inscription ‘Form Ghana Nti’ (‘For the sake of Form Ghana’). I also look forward to continually improving the standard of living of my family and support my children to the highest levels of education.”

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