The Kogyae region of Ghana has a rich biodiversity and social history. The region has cultural significance and is considered sacred by local communities, yet faces significant challenges. In particular, well-documented inequalities of global supply chains cause local producers of raw material such as cocoa to receive little of the economic value, and suffer due to major price and income instability.
In 1971 a nature reserve was established with the aim to protect the area, but the unmet need for sustainable economic opportunities for residents has driven degradation and loss of ecosystem health / services. The Kogyae region has been described as illustrating a "need for the revision of protection and management strategies of such areas" . A need for innovative solutions is clear.
The OKO Forests project was established by Kofi Debrah and friends with a mission to empower local communities to find solutions to these challenges and realize their own economic development through ingenuity and collaboration.
The initial goals of the project were to establish a like-minded community of farmers and supporters, evaluate opportunities and scale-up high-potential ideas through collective effort and cooperative business models.
There continue to be opportunities, from Oyster mushrooms to carbon credits, certification and impact-linked loans. Research shows that certification of smallholder farms in Ghana can support climate resilience, and the OKO Forests project hopes to become a leader in the evaluation and implementation of such approaches.
However, expansion of the project to support a larger number of participants is limited by team capacity and low interest of investors unfamiliar with the region or project details. The OKO Forests team realized that the added efficiency and scalability of a robust digital system has the potential to improve capacity, help to raise funding, and scale-up their ambition / impact.
Deployment of a landscape network for OKO Forests aims to ensure communications between farmers, businesses, funders and other stakeholders. Access to such a solution will benefits more community members, and help in development of new opportunities through direct links to buyers, and sustainable investors to scale-up production.