Action Oriented Public-Private Partnerships to Tackle Deforestation in West Africa: Finding Synergy in Cocoa and Palm Oil

  • Sustainability, cocoa sustainability, sustainable cocoa, why is sustainability important, sustainability defined, sustainability movement, cocoa plant, cocoa bean, cacao, raw cacao, deforestation, what is deforestation

    Author Ethan Budiansky

    Senior Director, Environment
    World Cocoa Foundation
  • Sustainability, cocoa sustainability, sustainable cocoa, why is sustainability important, sustainability defined, sustainability movement, cocoa plant, cocoa bean, cacao, raw cacao, deforestation, what is deforestation

    Author Daan Wensing

    Director, Landscapes & Deforestation Related Commodities Program
    IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative
Photo by TFA2020

It is no secret that agriculture – particularly soy, beef, palm oil, and timber – have contributed significantly to global forest loss. Recent maps have demonstrated that cocoa is also a driver of deforestation, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which produce roughly 50 percent of the global cocoa supply.

Compared to the other listed commodities, cocoa is unique in that it is a crop produced by millions of smallholder farmers on parcels of land that average of three hectares in size.  This makes finding solutions to deforestation in the cocoa sector particularly challenging, as they must address social, economic and environmental issues across the cocoa landscape.  This requires the collaborative effort of industry, producing governments and civil society organizations (CSO) to work together to identify solutions to these ongoing challenges, such as traceability and transparency, enforcing forestry laws, and addressing illegal farms and farmers in forested and protected areas.

Public-private partnerships are key to designing an actionable agenda.  One example is the Africa Palm Oil Initiative, flagship initiative of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020). Launched in 2014, the initiative supports the transition of the palm oil sector from being a driver of deforestation towards becoming a driver of long-term, low-carbon development in the West/Central Africa region. The initiative emphasizes the development and implementation of a set of regional principles and national action plans for responsible palm oil development, demonstrating how sustainable palm oil development can be both socially beneficial and protect tropical forests.

The Cocoa and Forests Initiative is on a similar path. Since the initiative was launched in March 2017, 35 of the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, as well as a range of other companies from the retail sector whose products contain cocoa, signed a Statement of Intent to work with key government and CSO leaders to end deforestation and forest degradation in the global cocoa supply chain, starting in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The signatories to the statement, CSO partners and the governments of these two countries are now collaborating to develop joint frameworks for action to spell out commitments for both countries. The frameworks, which are aligned with national environmental strategies, particularly REDD+, will be presented and signed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 23rd Conference of the Parties in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. The process is being facilitated by IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, the World Cocoa Foundation , and The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit , with input from CSOs, the international donor community  and others.

Although cocoa and palm oil are distinct commodities with different supply chain structures, there are common solutions to address deforestation. These solutions include:

  • Applying laws related to land ownership and ownership of individual trees (land and tree tenure)
  • Supporting adoption of good agricultural practices that can increase productivity and enhance farmers income
  • Supporting and diversifying livelihoods, with a focus on youth and women
  • Developing land use plans with clear delineation of sustainable production and forest protection areas
  • Engaging the community in forest protection and restoration
  • Implementing supply chain traceability
  • Monitoring and reporting on progress

Interested in joining the discussion and build on synergies between the cocoa and palm oil sectors? Learn more about the need for increasing sustainable smallholder yields in palm oil and cocoa to spare millions of hectares from deforestation, in the recent TFA 2020 publication – the Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020.  We also invite you to join the upcoming TFA 2020 Africa Palm Oil Initiative Regional Meeting in Libreville, Gabon on October 12-13, 2017, when we will analyze possible approaches to accelerate the implementation of joint actions through the Africa Palm Oil Initiative and the Cocoa and Forests Initiative. Hope to see you there!

This article first appeared on the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 website ( thanks to the contribution of its partners.