Focus: Land Resources and Ecosystem
Speaking on the future of Africa, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, once said: “Africa is the only continent which does not grow enough food to feed its own people. Its farmers have been locked out of the scientific and technological advances which have transformed crop yields across the world. The result is that hundreds of millions of people go hungry every day. And it is a scandal which climate change is already making more severe.” By 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the world will have to increase its food production by 60% to feed itself. Ghana, which is located at the geographic center of the world, is no exception. In less than 50 years, 90% of its rainforest has been cut down, and 30% of its land has been degraded. Yet, 70% of Ghana’s population depends on the forest and agriculture to make a living. Clearly, Ghana cannot afford to lose more rainforest to agriculture, and farmers will have to learn how to grow more food on less land. What, then, could reverse the trend of deforestation while adapting to climate change and contributing to food security?
Kofi Debrah, Yemisi Mokuolu and Kwame Owusu have bet on agroforestry and the cultivation of cassava. Ghana is the 6th largest producer of cassava in the world, producing more than 10.5 million metric tons per year. However, about 50% of it is lost along the value chain. Seeing an opportunity to avoid waste and add value, Oko is working with farmer families to produce High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) using agroforestry techniques. Not only is HQCF rich in carbohydrates, but it is also gluten-free. This explains why health buffs from San Francisco to Bangkok have been touting its benefits; and they aren’t the only ones. In September 2015, the Ghanaian government announced that they would refocus on cassava to transform the economy.
When asked about what motives him, Oko founder and MD Kofi Debrah points out: “I’ve always had a passion for nature. The more I learnt about agroforestry the more I became fascinated. It was a revelation that humanity can reverse the damage we have caused whilst combatting rural poverty.” By working with Oko, farmer families will have the opportunity to participate in a local supply chain and gain access to banking and insurance services. However, that’s not all. The planting of trees will help store carbon, and the nutrient-rich soil will enhance biodiversity.
Currently, Oko is testing Android-based software developed by Esoko to harvest the power of big data and the cloud. By recording real-time farm data, Oko aims to improve traceability and compliance to international food safety standards. Driven by a belief that they can make a difference and create stability for future generations, Kofi and his team have only just begun tackling climate change, food security, and rural poverty. By 2025, they aim to work with 5,000 farming families.
Environmental Impact: Sustainable agriculture, avoided food waste, efficient land use, reforestation, reduced CO2 emissions & preserved biodiversity
Measurement: The Forestry Commission of Ghana
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