Company-led cocoa sustainability programs in Ghana: PhD of David Amuzu

A hot day in the shade of a cocoa tree

More good news on the PhD front:  David Amuzu today passed his public defence with flying colours.  David’s research revolves around the transformations in rural production systems in the cocoa forests of Ghana caused by the arrival of ‘sustainability certification programs’ led by chocolate companies. These are the kinds of programs that lie behind the labels on chocolate bars that guarantee that they were produced in rainforest-friendly, non-exploitative ways.  He investigates how a firm-led sustainability program has inserted itself into the local landscape and with what sorts of social and agro-ecological consequences.  He is particularly interested in the underlying power relations and imbricated social processes that can explain and highlight the dynamic social negotiations and (sometimes) injustices hidden behind sustainability certificates.  The four results chapters focus on different consequences of the arrival and operation of the sustainability scheme, ranging from changes to governance institutions and local agrarian relations (Ch 3), the creation of benefits for and burdens on farmers (Ch 4), the obfuscation of land access relations (Ch 5), and blockages in on-farm tree conservation (Ch 6).  

David came to Lausanne to start his doctoral studies in September 2017 with a competitive three-year Swiss Excellence Scholarship (Bourse de la Confédération).  During his time here, David also received a SNSF Doc.Mobility grant to spend one year at the Lancaster Environment Centre at the University of Lancaster, under the supervision of Dr. Ben Neimark, a specialist in the political economy of tropical commodities.  I congratulate the new “Dr. Amuzu” on his successful thesis and wish him all the best!

David with part of the jury for his private thesis defence.  Left to right:  me, Judith Krauss (Sheffield), David, Festus Boamah (Bayreuth), and Gretchen Walters (Unil).  Not shown are Ben Neimark (Lancaster) and defence chair, René Véron (Unil)
David in the field and lecturing: screenshot during the public thesis defence (held online due to covid)

The thesis PDF is available on our institutional repository SERVAL here

Update: the first article has now come out: AMUZU, D., NEIMARK, B. & KULL, C. 2022. Bittersweet cocoa: Certification programmes in Ghana as battlegrounds for power, authority and legitimacy. Geoforum, 136, 54-67. (Free PDF until Oct 22 here)

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