Integrating soil mapping into cocoa farm development plans in Ghana

Cocoa has long been one of Ghana’s main exports, central to the country’s development and poverty alleviation strategies since its independence in 1957. Presently, Ghana is the world's second largest producer of cocoa. However, average cocoa yields in Ghana by smallholder farmers currently languish at 400 kilograms per hectare, far below their production potential of over 3,000 kilograms per hectare (Aneani and Ofori-Frimpong, 2013).

FarmGrow1, a geo-data-enabled precision agriculture service and technology platform, is designed to assist smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana to increase their cocoa yields from 400 kilograms to up to 2,000 kilograms per hectare over an 8- to 10-year period. Agronomists use FarmGrow with participating cocoa farmers to provide them with individualized support in adopting good agricultural practices and increasing on-farm investments to sustainably improve cocoa yields and cocoa income. However, the acquisition of accurate soil property data presents a major limitation in assessing farm-scale soil suitability and limitations.

The Data Innovation Fund project, “Map to the Future (M2F): Integrating Soil Mapping into Cocoa Farm Development Plans in Ghana”, evaluated the integration of site-specific soil data with traditional soil data products (e.g., regional-to-global soil maps) to provide location-specific soil information that smallholder cocoa farmers can use to improve soil health and overall farm productivity. M2F focused directly on the detailed characterization of soils on cocoa farms using the LandPKS2 app, the link between LandPKS soil property data and the soil maps in these settings, and the soil data accuracy requirements for cocoa soil management.

Based on these analyses, the project team, led by the Grameen Foundation USA, developed a framework for using site-specific soil information to help farmers better manage their soils. The framework consisted of three main steps:

  • Acquire accurate site-specific soil data through FarmGrow and LandPKS.

  • Link existing soil map data at the site location.

  • Develop crop-specific soil recommendations using site-specific soil map data, based on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Agro-Ecological Zone soil suitability methods.

Seventy-five farms were assessed, with three data collection sites per farm, resulting in 225 soil sites. Project findings demonstrated the importance of site-specific soil data for understanding a soil’s agronomic limitations and the feasibility of soil management interventions for improving crop yields. Relying on soil map data alone may lead to an under or overestimation of land capability and thus fail to identify the soil management actions needed to improve cocoa yields. When smallholder farmers have limited resources (financial, human, etc.), these differences could mean success or failure or limited impact of the investments they are making.

Relevant Sustainable Development Goals include: 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 13 (Climate Action), and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). 

Final Report (High Resolution)

Final Report (Low Resolution)


1 The FarmGrow app, developed by Grameen Foundation USA in collaboration with Mars and the Rainforest Alliance, is a coaching tool for smallholder farmers that combines detailed farmer household profile data with the agronomic status of cocoa plots to help create a business plan.

2 The LandPKS suite of apps, implemented by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, provides tools for soil identification, land cover and soil health monitoring, land management and farm record keeping, and more.

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