Your Chocolate Can Help Save the Planet. Here’s How


Photo by WCF

When there is something wrong in the forest, there is something wrong in society. – Zimbabwe proverb

Despite intensive efforts over the past decade to slow tropical deforestation, the equivalent of 40 football fields of trees was lost every minute in 2017. Commercial agricultural production of palm oil, soy, beef, and other commodities account for about half of this forest loss. Cocoa, the main ingredient in our chocolate bars, has driven deforestation in West Africa.

New solutions are needed to preserve and restore forests – and that’s why the global cocoa and chocolate industry and West African governments joined forces in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative.  This innovative multi-stakeholder partnership demonstrates the power of landscape approaches to tackle commodity-driven deforestation.

The top cocoa-producing governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and 33 of the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies signed joint Frameworks for Action in end-2017.  We agreed to concrete policy changes and investment commitments that will improve forest governance, reduce deforestation risks, catalyze forest protection and restoration, and boost farmer livelihoods – while strengthening the sustainability and dependability of cocoa supply for the future.

In line with our commitment to transparency and accountability, the governments and companies are publicly disclosing this month detailed Cocoa & Forests Initiative action plans so that all stakeholders can review our commitments and track our progress.

Governments: Tackling Forest and Land-use Governance

The National Plan for Côte d’Ivoire builds on the new government strategy adopted in May 2018.  Key strategic priorities include passage of the new Forest Code, 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 adoption of climate-smart practices, and strengthen supply chain mapping.

Both countries are introducing a differentiated approach for improved management of forest reserves, based on the level of degradation of forests. Up-to-date maps on forest cover and land-use, socio-economic data on cocoa farmers, and detailed operational guidelines covering forest management and land-use are being developed and will be publicly disclosed.

Companies: Diving in Deep

The initial company action plans for Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana spell out significant commitments from industry in 2018-22. These will be updated and finalized in 2019 as the governments provide further inputs needed for investment planning.

For forest protection, the initial company plans include specific measures for achieving 100% traceability in their direct supply chains, mapping the GPS location of 1 million farms, and conducting deforestation risk assessments near protected areas. In addition, the companies 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.

For sustainable cocoa production, the initial plans include ambitious targets to reach 824,000 farmers with training in environmentally sustainable cocoa farming, distribution of 22 million improved cocoa seedlings, and activities to support income diversification of 340,000 households.

For community engagement, the Cocoa & Forests Initiative will reach 7,300 communities for participatory development of forest protection and restoration activities, with a specific focus on women and youth.

Scaling up Pilots: No Time to Lose

The companies and governments have begun to translate plans into actions on the ground, with strong support from the World Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and other development partners. Key steps include:

Judge by the Seeds you Plant

Ending deforestation is a complex social, economic, and environmental challenge.  While landscape approaches are gaining increasing currency, they are extremely complicated to design and implement. They require significant trust-building among stakeholders, detailed understanding and analysis of the drivers of deforestation, and alignment and sequencing of complex policy and investment actions.

As we now turn to implementing the commitments of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, we will need to be adaptive, flexible, and patient. We will no doubt make mistakes, and will need to adjust our plans and timing as we work and learn with farmers, communities, and other local partners on the ground.

Judge each day, not by the harvest, but by the seeds you plant,” says a Guinean proverb.  Companies and governments are stepping up – we hope that development partners, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders will join us on this difficult and complex journey. Let’s work together to plant the right seeds and nurture them to grow in a sustainable cocoa and forest landscape.

This blog was originally posted on World Economic Forum,