The role of non-carbon benefits in REDD+: Insights from cocoa forest and shea savannah landscapes in Ghana

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis


This thesis examines the role of non-carbon benefits in REDD+ with insights from cocoa forest and shea savannah landscapes in Ghana. Deforestation in tropical landscapes contributes to carbon emissions and threatens the livelihoods of local communities, e.g., food security and provision of environmental services, but restrictions on forest clearance and afforestation raise challenges too. These circumstances led to the creation of the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ and Shea Landscape REDD+ programs. The thesis applies a mixed-methods approach to investigate its research questions, which are the basis of four papers. Paper 1 (“A Just Transition to Forest Communities: A Review of the Contributions of Non-Carbon Benefits to REDD+ Implementation and Sustainable Emission Reductions”) provides a global review of REDD+ implementation, with a focus on delivery of non-carbon benefits. The paper observes a decline in new REDD+ programs as well as sparse attention and funding for delivery of non-carbon benefits to local communities as a general feature of REDD+. Progress in improving forest governance to clarify land rights, with implications for provision of novel livelihoods to communities, proceeds generally in a slow and piecemeal fashion. Requirements in the Paris Agreement to support delivery of non-carbon benefits with REDD+ programs could benefit from more attention and detail. The study in Paper 2 (“Land tenure regimes for women in Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) in Northern Ghana”, published in Land Use Policy) finds that women in the shea landscape have weak land tenure security, despite access to land. A community-driven land registration scheme showed some promise in improving women's land security, compared to state-assisted land title registration. However, the land plots are generally small and hardly sufficient for viable economic participation in REDD+.
In Paper 3 (“Actor Perceptions of the Governance Framework and Non-Carbon Benefits from the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Program”, published in Environmental Management), a case study of the Hotspot Intervention Area of Juabuso-Bia observed lack of adequate stakeholder participation and a tendency to (re-)centralize governance. Weaknesses in governance structure have affected communities’ active involvement, with stakeholders working in silos. Farmers’ expectations for improvement in cocoa productivity, as the main non-carbon benefits to limit forest clearance, are far from being fulfilled. Farmers also report limited information and involvement in developing livelihood interventions in Paper 4 (“Farmer Perceptions of REDD+ Livelihood Interventions as Incentive Mechanism for Reducing Deforestation in the Juabuso-Bia Cocoa Forest Landscape”), which explores livelihood interventions aligned with the Ghana Cocoa REDD+ program. Unreliable supply of farm inputs and limited availability of climate-smart practices have resulted in poor yields, which in tandem with declining cocoa prices and low premium payments affect farmers’ incomes negatively. Paper 4 finds that the REDD+ mechanisms aimed at providing sufficient living incomes for farmers, as a reward for protection of forests, remain inadequate. Overall, the thesis highlights significant challenges in generating non-carbon benefits in REDD+ programs. In the cocoa forest landscape, REDD+ has made progress, but improvements are needed in funding, governance, stakeholder participation, and livelihood interventions to enhance the programs’ long-term success in reducing carbon emissions from land use. In the shea savannah landscape, improvement in plot size and tree tenure rights for women would improve their participation in REDD+. Generally, the Paris Agreement needs to be more specific as to how NCBs are to be delivered.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages206
Publication statusSubmitted - 9 Jun 2024


  • REDD+
  • Cocoa
  • Q-methodology
  • deforestation
  • Hotspot Intervention Area
  • Community Resource Management Area
  • Livelihood strategies
  • Forest governance


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