Collaborating Across Sectors To Protect Ghana Forests

Progress Blog
Collaborating Across Sectors To Protect Ghana Forests

By Jephthah Mensah, Agricultural and Environmental Manager, Cocoa Life Ghana, Mondelēz International - 01/17/18

To secure the future of cocoa (and our chocolate), we need to protect our forests. In Ghana, one of the largest cocoa-producing countries in the world, deforestation is escalating at an alarming rate. It’s driving climate change, impacting cocoa farmers’ harvests and ultimately their livelihoods. Coordinated action is crucial to making a difference. That’s why I’m glad Cocoa Life is forging new partnerships – first in Côte d’Ivoire, now in Ghana – with the local government and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Ghana supplies about 20 percent of the world’s cocoa. But it also has one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa at 3.2 percent per annum1. Cocoa farmers here are caught in a vicious cycle that has become increasingly difficult to break. Deforestation from cocoa farming reduces rainfall in the surrounding area and causes carbon emissions, which results in climate change. As weather patterns evolve, farmers aren’t able to grow as much cocoa. So they’re forced to expand into new areas, triggering the cycle all over again.

Ghana - Cocoa Canopy
People collecting cocoa

The impact of climate change is real. During my visits to the Ghanaian cocoa communities, I’ve witnessed its effects firsthand. The seasons are no longer clear-cut. Farmers can’t predict when it will rain, for instance, which is critical to grow cocoa and droughts are severe. For the first time in my career, I saw cocoa trees that looked burnt by fire. But they were actually “boiled” or scorched by the heat. It was an astonishing sight. Farmers come to us and ask for advice on how they can best take action to reduce the damage to their farms and crops.

One of the biggest threats to sustainable cocoa production today is deforestation. To combat an issue of this magnitude, we need an “all hands on deck” approach that engages both public and private sectors. This is exactly what our new partnership with the Forestry Commission of Ghana, Ghana Cocoa Board and UNDP entails. Following our letter of intent last year, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to reduce emissions in the cocoa supply chain. It’s is a huge step in the right direction. I’m excited for everything this collaboration will bring to Ghana.

Together, we will support the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Program. This program is a major part of Ghana’s REDD+ Strategy to tackle deforestation and forest degradation. Through Cocoa Life, we will lead project implementation and contribute $5 million USD over five years to the program. Our joint action plan will be executed across key Hotspot Intervention Areas, focusing on:

  • Mapping all land uses, including cocoa farms
  • Implementing climate smart cocoa practices to increase yields and sustainability
  • Improving access to finance to foster good practices by farmers and communities
  • Legislative and policy reform to support program implementation
  • Coordination and measurement, reporting and verification

"The Forestry Commission’s partnership with Mondelēz International’s Cocoa Life program provides a unique platform to harness expertise and mobilize resources from across different sectors that manage natural resources. As a Commission, we are proud to join forces with Cocoa Life under the umbrella of the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Program, as Cocoa Life has continually worked to promote environmentally sustainable practices into cocoa production in Ghana. We anticipate that our combined efforts towards sustainable forest management will also ultimately improve the livelihoods of local communities, particularly cocoa farmers."

Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, Chief Executive, Forestry Commission

Aligned with our climate change strategy, this partnership builds on our ongoing commitment. In fact, we signed a similar memorandum with the Ministry of Environment in Côte d’Ivoire last year. As a founding member of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, we’re also working with companies, governments and other partners to reduce deforestation right across the cocoa sector.

Although we have already accomplished strong achievements through previous work, we’re just getting started. If we want to truly break the cycle of deforestation and help cocoa farmers become more resilient to climate change, it will require a strong, concerted effort. Every player is important and has a key role, including governments, NGOs, industry, farmers and community members. Our hope is that Cocoa Life will inspire others to step up to the challenge.