Meet Raphaëlle Peinado, 31, sustainability manager for a cocoa and chocolate company. “I chose this career because I was interested in the impact the private sector can have on sustainable development. I started my career working in South America to tackle issues such as plastic pollution and rainforest conversation in the Amazon. One part of my work was supporting indigenous people in managing waste and finding sources of income – one of them being planting cocoa. If we do it the right way, cocoa is an opportunity to stop deforestation!”
Today, she is in charge of leveraging sophisticated mapping technology to accelerate the fight against deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria as part of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. “To know about the exact location and size of the farm is important for any sustainability measures. Also, it helps ensure that companies are compliant with the Cocoa & Forests Initiative’s commitment and understand where farms are to stop farming in protected and deforested regions.”
How does this work? “To start, every farmer is visited by a field agent and is interviewed on different data of the farm, such as the number of trees or the soil fertility. These are entered in a mobile app. Then, agents walk the perimeter of every farm to measure the precise area and GPS location. The technology aggregates all the geo data and compares farms against satellite imagery to assess deforestation risk and national park boundaries.”
Mapping benefits everyone along the value chain – from the farmer to the sourcing companies implementing sustainability activities on the ground. “During my recent visit in Ghana, when we tested the tool, I asked a farmer: “How big is your farm?”. He answered, estimating “three hectares.” After polygon mapping it with our application, it turned out the farm was only one hectare. I realized that this tool can help farmers to become more aware of their own operations.”
Sustainability nowadays is about having the right data, so it is important to have a reliable tool that gathers data which makes sense.Raphaëlle Peinado
The technology not only provides information about the exact location and size of the farm to help companies understand if there is any risk of deforestation in their supply chain. It also records data on sustainability activities taking place on the ground such as farmer training or reforestation. It can also monitor the income of a farmer. In the end, it helps to shape targeted support for the farmer. “Sustainability nowadays is about having the right data, so it is important to have a reliable tool that gathers data which makes sense.”
The way forward is to be able to aggregate all the data and, in the near future, move away from paper. This won’t happen overnight, with a significant hurdle being the local infrastructure: internet and electricity are not always accessible. Fortunately, the app can be used offline, with data being transmitted when internet connection is established.