Why Chocolate is Forever: Four Ways We’re Working for the Future of Cocoa

Author Charlotte Grant

Communications & Marketing Manager
World Cocoa Foundation

If, like me, you are a chocolate lover, chances are that your heart has sunk more than once since 2013, when click bait ‘chocolate extinction’ articles started popping up all over the internet. Let’s put this scary prospect to rest once and for all. These stories tend to stretch the results of International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) research. They are based on a ‘business as usual’ approach to growing cocoa, the magic bean that is used to make your chocolate.

So, instead of planning our goodbyes to our favorite treat this Valentine’s Day, let’s get up to date on the future of cocoa.

1. Yes, climate change is affecting cocoa farmers. Here’s how we can help.

Today, due to dated practices, yields on most cocoa farms are far below where they could be. Poor farmers now face odd weather patterns and lengthy droughts. WCF promotes Climate Smart Cocoa and more cocoa on less land. We’re helping with training on professional farming and soil fertility. We’re also distributing shade trees, good cocoa plants, and creating agroforestry plots.

2. Yes, cocoa trees get sick. Here’s how farmers are looking after their plants.

A deadly virus called CSSV is threatening cocoa. CSSV spreads through insects. We don’t know how to cure the trees once they get sick, so they must be cut down. We’ve made good progress on detecting the virus early to prevent it from spreading. And, guess what, planting forest trees on and around cocoa farms can help too. We also think that, down the road, science can find virus-tolerant cocoa plants.

3. Yes, cocoa is causing deforestation in West Africa. Here’s the plan to put an end to this.

Deforestation is both an effect and a cause of climate change. Yao Ahou, a cocoa farmer in Ndenou, Côte d’Ivoire, will tell you, “there is less rain because we cut down all the big trees.” Indeed, poor farmers work in West African forests to make more money and feed their families, causing tragic forest cover loss. WCF, the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and international organizations joined in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. The objective is to end cocoa-related forest loss by 2022. Concrete actions are currently being implemented by companies such as distributing almost 35 million forest trees and paying 215,900 farmers for green services. Companies are also helping farmers break their reliance on cocoa and adopt green farming. The equivalent of 500 football fields a day are being transformed, with other trees and plants grown alongside cocoa.

4. Yes, chocolate can be a force for good. Forest-positive cocoa brings peace and fights deforestation.

Today, in Colombia, cocoa is key to the peace process. Cocoa is a sweet alternative for brave Colombian farmers who break away from illegal crops. Its unique qualities protect jobs and precious forests.

In the nearby Brazilian Amazon, native tribes are fighting for their survival and their home, the jungle. There, cocoa, a shade-loving plant, can provide jobs and protect the forest. After all, cocoa was born and has been grown and loved in this part of the world for thousands of years.

Here’s to another thousand years of chocolaty Valentines!

  • Women are working in a shade tree nursery near Soubré in Côte d'Ivoire: these trees will soon be ready to be planted on cocoa farms, increasing forest cover and protecting cocoa from the sun

  • Ediko Appo Agnès is working on her diversified cocoa farm near Agboville in Côte d'Ivoire. She recently planted a mix of food and cash crops, using green farming techniques.

  • A cocoa tree in the Amazon region of Brazil

  • A Colombian farmer is harvesting cocoa pods. These will be cut open to collect the cocoa beans. [Photo by Luker Chocolate]

  • Yao Ahou stands proudly next to a forest tree that she planted on her cocoa farm in Taabo, Eastern Côte d'Ivoire. The tree provides shade, barrier for some insects, food for farm animals, and soil nutrition.