Nahtam, a UAE-based social responsibility company, is planning to set up a sustainable farming system in Ghana on 1,600 hectares of land in the capital city of Accra that will produce organic food while offsetting carbon production.

The project will employ 2,000 Ghanaians to work on the land, where 36 villages have already been set up. The crops will include bananas, palm oil, avocados, mangoes and pineapples, and these products will then be sold both locally and internationally, including to the UAE.

“We will also have exotic trees like teak and rubber plantations,” George Itty, CEO of Nahtam, told Abu Dhabi’s The National.“Teak is a long-term investment – it takes many years to get the result out of it – but we’re going for tissue culture, so it won’t be that long. Rubber plantations are also something that worldwide investors will get a return on.”

The process to acquire the land took about a year and is expected to be finalised next month. Work on the land will start in six months, with food production anticipated to begin as early as next summer. The trees are then expected to mature in two to three years.

Itty added: “Carbon footprint is a global issue and the simplest and easiest method to offset carbon is to plant as many trees as you can. Since we are based in Abu Dhabi, where the desert makes planting trees very expensive, an alternative is to plant trees in a countries such as Ghana. As long as the trees are there, we are offsetting the carbon.”

The ultimate aim of the project will be to ensure production is 100% sustainable, including avoiding all chemicals and providing power to the project from solar and wind sources. The project chose Ghana for its beneficial climate and the availability of land and manpower.

The exact level of offsetting that will be provided by the project is not yet known, because the exact species of plants are yet to be decided, but the scale will make it impressive.

Robin Mills, head of consulting at Manaar Energy in Dubai, commented: “Although the European carbon market has pretty much collapsed, people recognise that stopping deforestation and replanting forests is critical in tackling climate change in the longer term.

“About 20% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused be deforestation so although it might seem unimportant to individual companies, it’s important from a global point of view.”

Investors from the UAE will be invited to take part in the project in three months’ time.

Nahtam, which means “We Care” in Arabic, is a private and voluntary organisation driven by three committed individuals: Ebrahim Al Haddar, a UAE national; Isabelle Le Bon-Poonoosamy, a Mauritian national; and, George Itty, an Indian national.