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Seeing the trees: Farmer perceptions of indigenous forest trees within the cultivated cocoa landscape

Atkins, Jane E., Eastin, Ivan
Forestry chronicle 2012 v.88 no.5 pp. 535-541
Theobroma cacao, case studies, crop yield, ecosystems, farm surveys, farmers, farms, forest soils, forest trees, forests, interviews, landscapes, rural economics, stakeholders, Ghana
Throughout Ghana’s high forest zone, cocoa farmers clear secondary or primary forest to establish new farms, capturing the capacity of nutrient-rich forest soils to increase cocoa yields. However, many cocoa farmers preserve remnant forest trees on existing farms as an integral and necessary component of the production landscape, making decisions about tree removal and tree retention based on a unique set of selection criteria. How they perceive trees plays a crucial role in daily management decisions made at the micro level, which in turn influence landscape patterns on the macro level. The central question of this research relates to how Ghanaian farmers perceive forest trees within the cultivated cocoa landscape. The research data were collected using an exploratory case study approach that combined ethnographic and survey techniques, and draws on 34 farmer interviews, 34 farm surveys, and interviews with key informants representing diverse stakeholder interests in the Domeabra Traditional Lands, Ashanti-Akim in south central Ghana. The research data were analyzed to identify the important functions of forest trees as perceived by study participants, both as a biophysical component within the farm ecosystem and as an input to the rural economy.