Satellites in the Sky and Boots on the Ground: How Industry is Working to End Deforestation

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 Harold Poelma

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate
L-R Kouadio Akissi; Tano Brou Julienne, breaking cocoa pods. Photo by Cargill.

On the two year anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement today, the importance of our collaborative efforts in support of climate action will be reinforced at the One Planet Summit in Paris. At the international climate conference COP23, in Bonn, Germany, Cargill joined more than 20 other members of the cocoa and chocolate industry in announcing a sector-wide initiative to protect forests. The arrangement, developed by the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, sets out a framework to protect forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the world’s two largest cocoa-growing countries. It is a welcome development in the fight against deforestation.

As an industry leader, Cargill has been actively involved in creating the new framework. We have committed to eliminating deforestation from our supply chains and we are delivering on that promise, just as we intend to do our part in building a sustainable cocoa sector that can thrive for generations to come.

To achieve that goal, industry has an important role to play by:

  • Keeping the focus on farmers and farming communities. The only way to drive lasting forest protection is by addressing social and economic factors so farmers can prosper.
  • Driving industry collaboration. By working with industry peers and other stakeholders, we can develop lasting solutions for sustainable land use.
  • Encouraging government action. Governments are critical to developing and enforcing policies to prevent deforestation.

Supporting industry transformation

In our own supply chain, we have seen the tangible steps we can take to improve farmer livelihoods. Cargill has been working to source cocoa sustainably since 2012, when we launched the Cargill Cocoa Promise. In areas where that promise has focused on farmer trainings, we have seen yields increase up to 1,000 kilograms per hectare and incomes improve by 50 percent or more. On top of that, Cargill is now paying premiums 10-20 percent.

From the start, we made it clear that we were aiming to drive transformation for the whole industry, not just our supply chain. That’s why we are working with farmers, NGOs, governments and other private companies in the sector to share best practices. And we are investing in cocoa-growing communities to diversify economic activity, generate new income streams and build resilience.

Under the new industry framework, private companies are expected to put forward action plans by the end of 2018 that lay out how they will contribute to the goal of stopping deforestation. Cargill’s plan will build on the substantial progress we’ve made in recent years. As we described in our recently released 2017 Cargill Cocoa Promise report, we have already begun doing many of the things the framework requires of industry.

Mapping our sourcing area from space

Over the past year, we also worked with World Resources Institute (WRI) to map 2.3 million hectares of land in our supply chain, surveying land in five origin countries (Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire), using satellite photography and GPS technology. We shared insights on our methodology in Cargill’s Report on Forests.

The mapping program enables us to assess risks and remedy them pro-actively. Going forward, we will take steps to prevent anymore protected land from being cleared and to restore land that has been cleared so far. As part of our effort to drive industry-wide collaboration, we will work with WRI to make this mapping technology more widely available for other companies.

Finding solutions on the ground

Progress also depends on how we engage with governments on long-term solutions. Fortunately, much of the legislation required to protect forests is already on the books. Now it’s a matter of strengthening these laws and enforcing them so that protected areas are effectively off limits and deforested areas can be restored.

Going forward, alternative livelihoods will have to be found for farmers who are required by law to vacate protected lands. That’s why Cargill will work with the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana, as well as farmer co-ops and specialized third-party groups, to help build resilient local communities with diverse sources of economic activity that allow all members of society to thrive.

Cargill stands ready to work with all stakeholders to continue the work of building a transparent, sustainable cocoa industry that respects the planet, raises standards of living for millions of hardworking farmers and earns consumers’ trust for years to come. More information is available at