Sustainable cocoa: Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana joint action plan to end deforestation and restore forests is “milestone moment”

Sustainable cocoa: Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana joint action plan to end deforestation and restore forests is “milestone moment”

05 Mar 2019 --- The top cocoa-producing countries of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, alongside the world’s leading chocolate and cocoa companies, are releasing action plans to end deforestation in the cocoa sector and restore forest areas. In what is being touted as a “milestone moment” in the West African cocoa supply chain, the governments and companies have committed to no further conversion of any forest land for cocoa production and have pledged to eliminate illegal cocoa production in protected areas.

The action plans focus on forest protection and restoration, sustainable cocoa production, farmers’ livelihoods and community engagement and social inclusion.

These combined actions will play a crucial role in sequestering carbon stocks and addressing global and local climate change, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, according to the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative.

Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, WCF President, Rick Scobey, says: “This is a breakthrough commitment. For the first time, the companies and governments have come together in a joint public-private partnership, as we recognize that neither companies nor governments alone can solve the issue.” 

“The Frameworks for Action spell out clear timelines and commitments by both governments and companies, and we are putting in place a public monitoring and evaluation system in 2019 that will ensure transparency and accountability for progress,” Scobey says.  

Scobey explains that the system includes high-resolution satellite imagery to detect changes in forests in real-time, key land use, environmental and socio-economic performance indicators; and annual publicly disclosed reporting on progress and outcomes related to the specific actions in the Frameworks.  

“We welcome and encourage media and civil society organizations to review deforestation issues on the ground, and help ensure transparency and accountability for all actors in the supply chain,” he adds.

The pledge to end deforestation and revive forests embodies the commitments made as part of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, which was launched in November 2017 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. At this time, two-thirds of the global cocoa supply agreed on actions to eliminate deforestation.

Now, 33 companies, accounting for around 85 percent of global cocoa usage, have joined the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. Each company has now completed its initial action plan to spell out the steps to take over the 2018-2022 period to support ending deforestation and restoring forest areas in the cocoa supply chain. 

These include some of the big players in cocoa and chocolate production including Mondelēz International which already invested in a program to protect forests in Ghana in January 2018. In March 2018, cocoa giant Barry Callebaut started its first-ever “Forever Chocolate” pilot program in Indonesia, where theories of change were put to the test in a bid to speed up a systemic change in cocoa farming. There were also similar pilots held in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Brazil.  

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate also recently highlighted sustainability in Ghana with investment plans and farmer support as part of commemorating its 10th anniversary in Ghana. HRH The Prince of Wales also visited Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire in November 2018, to examine first-hand the progress being made and how key players in the supply chain are working toward a sustainable farming model.

The WCF has released the consolidated initial plans of the companies for Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and each company will publicly disclose its own individual initial plan over the next three weeks. 

Specific forest restoration measures will be tailored to the level of degradation of the specific forest area. Largely intact forests will be managed under a strict protection status – cocoa production, timber extraction and other types of extractive activities will be excluded, Scobey notes. In moderately degraded forests, the governments will target community-based forest restoration and reforestation activities, and phase out cocoa and other extractive activities over time (but will allow some sustainable economic use of the forest, such as non-timber forest products).

“The goal is progressive restoration of the forest to a healthy, intact state and cessation of cocoa farming. In heavily degraded landscapes with little environmental value, climate-smart cocoa production and cocoa agroforestry will be permitted in specific cases as the best solution to balance environmental, economic, and social objectives,” Scobey explains. 

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana governments have extensively consulted with stakeholders, including cocoa and chocolate companies, farmer groups, environmental organizations, and development partners, to develop and publish the National Implementation Plans for the Initiative. 

The National Plan for Côte d’Ivoire builds on the new Declaration of Policy for Forest Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension adopted by the government in May 2018.  Key strategic priorities include passage of the new Forest Code by government on January 30, 2019 (readied for final approval by the National Assembly in April 2019), creation of a National Forest Preservation and Rehabilitation Fund, development and implementation of the national cocoa traceability system, and implementation of pilot projects in five priority regions.

The National Plan for Ghana leverages the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Program to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and enhance carbon stocks through sustainable forest management. The priority actions are to scale up landscape approaches to end forest degradation in six “Hotspot Intervention Areas”, improve cocoa yields through the adoption of environmentally sound climate-smart practices and strengthen supply chain mapping. 

What are the key actions?
Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which produce about 65 percent of the global cocoa supply, have lost 17 percent and 13 percent of their forest cover, respectively, from 2001 to 2017, primarily as a result of agricultural encroachment. It is estimated that at least 2.3 million hectares of the Upper Guinean rainforest in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have been cleared for cocoa farms between 1988 and 2007.

The companies and governments are now beginning to implement key actions on the ground to halt deforestation in the most ecologically important and environmentally sensitive areas. Significant steps include:

- Government implementation of land use and socio-economic surveys in priority areas to collect baseline data for the design of new agroforestry and conservation programs;

- Development of farm mapping and traceability systems to ensure cocoa is sourced legally from farms outside of protected areas and monitor where cocoa from deforested areas could enter into the supply chain;

- Development of new landscape corridors to connect up fragmented forest reserves, and community-based landscape management to scale up conservation efforts;

- Investments in sustainable agricultural intensification in order to “grow more cocoa on less land,” with a focus on climate-smart production techniques, farmer training, increased access to financing, new government operational guidelines and company investment for agroforestry;

- Looking at incentive-based systems to promote environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices, for instance through the launch of payments for environmental services contracts directly with farmers;

- Government land tenure reforms and tools that allow farmers to obtain official ownership of valuable non-cocoa trees on their farms and thereby encourage investment in agroforestry; and

- Use of satellite monitoring to track illegal deforestation in hotspot areas and issue deforestation alerts.

“The initial company action plans include specific commitments from the companies for forest restoration. For example, we will distribute and plant 12.6 million native trees for forest restoration and cocoa agroforestry, develop 400,000 hectares of cocoa agroforestry, and sign contracts for payments for environmental services with 215,000 farmers by 2022,” Scobey continues.

Law enforcement and governance
Governments are also committed to strengthening public sector forest law enforcement and governance, explains Scobey. This includes: awareness-raising campaigns so that citizens are well informed about environmental laws and their responsibilities for sustainable land use management; capacity building of national and local forest institutions so that they can play their regulatory, education, and enforcement roles effectively; expanded community-based monitoring of natural resource use in local areas, so that communities “self-police” the use of resources in their landscapes; and stronger national government surveillance and monitoring, and application of stronger sanctions for any infringement of the laws.

Scobey also cites the “proliferation of exciting new sources of data and new tools and technologies for effective and efficient monitoring of supply chains” that have come about over the last few years. “The governments and companies are embracing these developments to deliver our commitment for 100 percent traceability from farm to the first purchase point.”

“The initial action plans of the companies include an impressive commitment to map the GPS location of one million farms and complete deforestation risk assessments near protected areas by end-2019. Likewise, our monitoring and evaluation framework will include real-time reporting on forest restoration and deforestation alerts based on satellite monitoring tools like Global Forest Watch.”

Companies that have signed the Framework for Action of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative are Arysta Callivoire, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate, Cémoi, Chocolats Halba, Cocoanect, Cococo Chocolatiers, ECOM Group, Fazer, Ferrero, General Mills Inc., Godiva Chocolatier Inc., Guittard Chocolate Company, The Hershey Company, Indcresa, Lindt & Sprüngli Group, Marks & Spencer Food, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Meiji Co. Ltd., Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Olam Cocoa, PBC Limited, Sainsbury’s, SIAT, Tesco, Toms Group, Touton, Tree Global, Unilever, Valrhona, and J.H. Whittaker & Sons.

By Gaynor Selby

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