Human Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 321–332 | Cite as

Evaluating Farmers’ Knowledge of Shade Trees in Different Cocoa Agro-Ecological Zones in Ghana

  • Sophie Graefe
  • Lennart Flavio Meyer-Sand
  • Katja Chauvette
  • Issaka Abdulai
  • Laurence Jassogne
  • Philippe Vaast
  • Richard Asare


Shade trees are an integral part of most cocoa growing systems across the world. This study assesses farmers’ local knowledge of shade trees at two locations in Ghana with different climatic conditions and vulnerability to climate change. Akumadan is located in the northern dry part of the cocoa belt representing marginal conditions for cocoa cultivation, whereas Asankragua is located in the southern wet part, more ecologically favorable for cocoa cultivation. Inventories were conducted to assess the abundance of species, their structural characteristics and benefits to cocoa systems. Results show that cocoa farmers have detailed knowledge on the functions of shade trees in cocoa systems and prefer species that provide specific needs according to the location. However, abundance of species in a location does not necessary translate into beneficial impacts on cocoa productivity. In the drier part of the cocoa belt, income diversification through shade trees is an adaptation strategy to the increasingly marginal conditions for cocoa production, which has led to the high proportion of fruit trees among the most abundant species. In contrast, farmers in the southern part of the cocoa belt select shade trees for their high cocoa compatibility. Adaptation strategies for cocoa farmers should therefore promote species that best accommodate farmers’ economic, agronomic and environmental needs.


Agroforestry Local knowledge Shade Theobroma cacao Tree attributes Ghana 



We are indebted to the participating farmers who shared their knowledge on shade trees and kindly responded to our questionnaires. We also express our gratitude to Aikins Nyamekye and Bismark Debrah for their great help as field assistants and translators, as well as to Joseph Owusu for identifying shade tree species. This research is part of the CGIAR programs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Forests, Trees and Agriculture (FTA). Funding through the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is gratefully acknowledged. L.M.-S. and K.C. received a thesis research grant of BEAF/GIZ. We also thank IITA for logistical support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), project number: 12.1433.7–001.00.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tropical Silviculture and Forest EcologyGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Crop Production Systems in the TropicsGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)KampalaUganda
  4. 4.Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche pour le Développement (CIRAD), UMR Eco&SolsMontpellierFrance
  5. 5.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)NairobiKenya
  6. 6.International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)AccraGhana

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