Reports, Published Articles, and Other Works

Ghana Guidance Document & Toolbox

This guidance document and the supporting materials and presentations were developed by the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC) with support from the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands under the Green Landscapes Alliance, the World Cocoa Foundation with a grant from USAID, and the Partnerships for Forests with funding from UK Aid.

Click here for the Full Report.

Executive Summary

Across the developing world, forested countries, global commodity companies, donors, and leading NGOs are engaged in serious efforts to reduce deforestation and degradation, and to conserve forests in an effort to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and safeguard the invaluable ecosystem services that forests provide.

After years of farm-level and project-scale efforts which have not brought some of the expected results, many are asking, “what is the best way to protect the environment and support producers?”. The global consensus is that reducing deforestation, ensuring the sustainability of agricultural systems, and supporting smallholder farmers’ livelihoods can only be achieved when they are jointly addressed at landscape or jurisdictional (regional or state) scales, in addition to local levels.

Understanding the concept of landscape approaches is therefore critical if countries, industries and/or initiatives are to pursue landscape sustainability. This is particularly true for the global cocoa and chocolate industry, which in 2017 made a commitment to a no-deforestation supply chain from its two biggest producer countries—Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Unbeknownst to many, Ghana and its cocoa sector are already global leaders in conceiving and testing landscape approaches, including landscape governance mechanisms, landscape standards, and landscape monitoring systems. This comes from over twenty-years of experience in developing and implementing the Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) mechanism, and since 2014 its coordinated effort to develop and implement the world’s first commodity-based emission reductions program—the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme (GCFRP).

Therefore, with support IUCN-Netherlands, the World Cocoa Foundation and Partnerships for Forests, this document aims to capture Ghana’s knowledge and experiences on landscape approaches and synthesize it into a Guidance Document and Toolbox, so as to facilitate wider learning and adoption amongst private sector companies, civil society organizations and government agencies.

More specifically, the purpose of the Guidance Document and Toolbox is three-fold:

To introduce and explain the concept of Ghana’s three main landscape approaches—landscape governance, landscape standards, and landscape monitoring—to the main stakeholders in Ghana’s cocoa value chain and those working in cocoa production landscapes.


To provide guidance on how to implement landscape governance.


To give stakeholders access to a comprehensive toolbox of information and resources about these landscape approaches.

The document is structured to answer a series of questions about landscape governance, landscape standards, and landscape monitoring, which are broadly summarized herein. Much greater detail and explanation is contained in the main body of the guidance document and in the numerous resources and templates contained in the toolbox.

What are landscape approaches?

The adoption of landscape-level initiatives in Ghana’s cocoa sector represents a significant shift in focus from the farm-farmer-society scale of engagement, which has been the norm, to a model that also orients outward to address critical environmental, social, and climate issues that extend beyond individual farm boundaries into the surrounding communities, farming landscape, and forests. For the most part, landscape-scale initiatives are not focused on only one or two communities and a sub-set of farmers. Instead, landscape approaches target large areas of land and hundreds of farming communities with a suite of key interventions:

What is landscape governance and why is it important to sustainability?

The concept of landscape governance is to provide a suite of governance processes, bodies, and rules that enable the landowners and resource users to better manage the land, their farms and the natural resources at different scales, while also creating a linked platform for coordination and collaboration with the external stakeholders.

Landscape governance is important because cocoa production landscapes can be complicated places given the mosaic nature of farming and variation in farming practices, the expansiveness of forests that exist under various degrees of degradation, and the broad range of stakeholders who have varied interests, resources, mandates, and capacities. In addition, there is no guarantee that efforts to increase yields and/or implement climate-smart cocoa (or cocoa agroforestry) will necessarily lead to reduced expansion into or exploitation of forests. Therefore, establishing and supporting landscape governance systems is essential to addressing landscape complexities and realizing positive outcomes.

Ghana has two landscape governance mechanisms—the CREMA mechanism and the Hotspot Intervention Area (HIA) mechanism. CREMAs and HIAs are about giving communities, landowners and land-users the right to govern and manage their lands, including the natural resources and farming systems, for socio-cultural, economic, and ecological benefits and sustainability.

CREMAs are the most local level of community-based natural resource governance, typically encompassing five to twenty communities. HIAs (hotspots of forests and cocoa production) cover much larger area—100,000 to 200,000 ha –and use a nested governance structure (CREMAs nested within Sub-HIAs which sit within the HIA) to achieve scale. The HIA is led at the highest level by a locally elected HIA Management Board, made up of landowners, land users, local authorities, and community leaders. Both CREMAs and HIAs go through a straightforward but intensive development process that includes establishing executive committees and boards, drafting constitutions and by-laws which guide and empower the governance bodies, and developing a comprehensive management plan. The HIA closely engages with a formal Consortium of private sector cocoa companies, NGOs, and government partners who will work together to implement activities and bring resources to the ground.

The main roles and functions of CREMAs, Sub-HIAs and HIA include:

HIAs (hotspots of forests and cocoa production) cover much large area—100,000 to 200,000 ha –and use a nested governance structure (CREMAs nested within Sub-HIAs which sit within the HIA) to achieve scale.

CREMAs are the most local level of community-based natural resource governance, typically encompassing five to twenty communities. 

What is a Consortium (multi-stakeholder partnership)?

With governance bodies managing the landscape, landscape stakeholders come together in a pre-competitive partnership—a consortium—to collaborate on planning, implementation and monitoring in coordination with the HIA. A consortium reflects a multi-stakeholder partnership of two or more landscape stakeholders (ideally more) who are actively working and/or investing in the landscape and who share common objectives and goals with respect to reducing deforestation, protecting forests, promoting climate-smart cocoa production, and improving farmers’ livelihoods and conditions.

For success on the ground at a landscape scale there must be partnerships. The value of a consortium is that it creates a platform for collaboration and pre-competitive engagements which enable partners to share costs, benefit from a much broader range of skill sets and expertise, implement activities more effectively and efficiently, and jointly solve problems as they arise. Consortium members commonly include cocoa and chocolate companies, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies.

Consortium partnerships and activities can start slowly and progress over time, enabling a few partners to focus on a portion of the landscape (CREMAs or Sub-HIA) with a plan for phased expansion and integration of new partners over time. The initial focus of a Consortium is to implement activities in coordination. Partnerships then start to jointly share information and monitor impacts, before compiling results to make claims about sustainability, often using a landscape standard or performance-based framework.

What are landscape standards?

In the past, efforts to address problematic social and environmental issues were often tackled within the supply chain at the farm/farmer/group level, without taking into account the broader factors driving these issues or the real scale of trends and impacts resulting from interventions. This resulted in a number of problematic disparities. For example, a global rise in volumes of sustainably certified products, like cocoa beans, despite a concurrent rise in rates of deforestation.

What is important and exciting about landscape-level standards and related supply-chain tools is that they provide a new opportunity to understand and reliably assess sustainability at much broader scales; either at the scale of the landscape and the population of producers from which commodities are produced, or along the entirety of a company’s supply chain.

Some of these efforts, like the Accountability Framework, are focused on providing resources and guidance that can inform and guide sustainability for supply-chain investments and actions. Other initiatives, like IDH’s Verified Sourcing Areas, aim to verify the sustainability of landscapes that serve as major sourcing areas for commodities. The majority of these “standards” and tools are global in scope, but some countries, like Ghana, are developing national sector specific standards, like the Ghana Climate-Smart Cocoa Production Standard.

One of the most advanced standards is LandScale; a shared initiative of the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), the Rainforest Alliance (RA), and Verra, which is being piloted in two HIA landscapes in Ghana.

The value of a consortium is that it creates a platform for collaboration and pre-competitive engagements which enable partners to share costs, benefit from a much broader range of skill sets and expertise, implement activities more effectively and efficiently, and jointly solve problems as they arise

LandScale is a tool to help drive landscape sustainability in rural landscapes dominated by natural resource-based industries and supply chains, including agribusiness, forestry, extractions, and infrastructure. At the heart of LandScale is the assessment framework, which aims to be useful for both global and local landscape actors because it provides measurable indicators on the state and trajectory of sustainability at the landscape level across ecological, human well-being, governance and production dimensions. The opportunity is to use the LandScale framework for assessing and then communicating the sustainability performance of landscapes where key commodities are grown or resources extracted.

How are landscapes monitored?

Landscape monitoring is the critical link between the implementation of coordinated activities across a landscape like governance and climate-smart cocoa, and the reporting of results. Landscape monitoring is about generating landscape level data and information to understand or assess the impacts and outcomes of interventions in a landscape.

Yet the reality is that monitoring at a landscape-scale is not simple—project level data is not broad enough in scope, and private sector indicators may only reflect a small proportion of the producers and total production in a landscape. A key question therefore is, how can HIAs and the stakeholder Consortiums generate or gain access to data and information from an entire landscape in order to report on CFI commitments, demonstrate results under the GCFRP, and/or document progress for LandScale?

The answer is that efficient and focused landscape-specific monitoring and evaluation systems will be required as part of a landscape approach. Such a project is already underway in Ghana to develop a cocoa CREMA landscape M&E system with a grant from the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. The project is adapting and testing a socio-economic and ecological monitoring approach, previously used in an established CREMA in northern Ghana, and combining it with other research and data collection methods which have recently been applied in cocoa and oil palm systems in southern Ghana. The M&E system will focus on indicators that speak to 1) sustainable production, 2) ecosystem health, 3) welling and social inclusion, and 4) landscape governance. The M&E system expects to align with the government’s GCFRP monitoring system, including forest and social safeguards monitoring.

What are the final recommendations and lessons?

The document concludes by offering a set of recommendations and lessons on the following topics:

It also provides links or access to nearly fifty resource documents, templates, and manuals in the Toolbox Annex.