Future of Cocoa in Indonesia: A study of climate change

Progress Blog
Future of Cocoa in Indonesia:
A study of climate change

By Andi Sitti Asmayanti, Director of Cocoa Life for Southeast Asia, Mondelēz International

One of the biggest threats to the future of our cocoa is climate change. That's because without the right climate and adaptation to climate change, farmers can't grow as much cocoa. And without cocoa, we won't have our favorite chocolate bars. Partnering with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), our Cocoa Life team took a closer look into cocoa-growing suitability in Indonesia and we publish a new report today. Here is a conversation I had with Peter Läderach, Senior Climate Scientist at CIAT, discussing the findings and importance of our work together.

Andi Sitti Asmayanti: Over the years, we've seen weather patterns evolve in the cocoa origins. In Indonesia, there are actually two seasons. For the cocoa communities here, the rainy season is when we plant, while the dry season is mainly when we harvest. But more and more, the climate is becoming unpredictable. This means higher temperatures, less rain and more droughts, throwing off the cocoa production cycle. We'd really like to better understand the threats faced by cocoa, first and foremost. That way, we can figure out how the program can best combat them. The report on cocoa climate suitability in Indonesia shares some essential information. What would you say are the most important takeaways from that research?

"We found that the majority of cocoa production in Indonesia will be affected by climate change. And while it’ll remain possible to grow cocoa in the future, it’s critical for farmers to adapt. By adopting climate smart agriculture practices, they can improve their productivity and become more resilient."

Peter Läderach

Peter Läderach

Andi Sitti Asmayanti: I absolutely agree. We heard from cocoa farmers and community members directly about how climate change is affecting their crops. Since Cocoa Life launched in 2012, the environment has been one of our five focus areas. And last year, we developed our climate change strategy to build on our ongoing commitment. With our partners, we're finding long-term solutions to strengthen communities' resilience against climate change and to protect forests. Our partnership with CIAT is aligned with this strategy. Your robust expertise and tools are extremely helpful to our efforts.

Peter Läderach: The opportunity to partner with Cocoa Life is valuable to us as well. It's unique in that the program takes a holistic approach to climate change. You also engage directly with all of the actors along the supply chain. A collaborative effort is crucial to the challenges of climate change. I'm glad the first phase of our work in Indonesia was such a success, covering cocoa climate suitability, climate smart agriculture, deforestation and carbon emissions. Many of these projects are actually the first of their kind in the cocoa industry in Indonesia.

Andi Sitti Asmayanti: I'm proud that Cocoa Life is leading the charge with CIAT. Tell us more about the links between climate change and deforestation.

Peter Läderach: Climate change is a global phenomenon, caused by rising levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A significant driver of climate change is land use change and deforestation, through the expansion of tree crops, such as oil palm, rubber and cocoa, for example. When farmers don't produce enough cocoa to support their livelihoods, they're forced to clear more land for their crops. The CO2 emissions from deforestation then contribute to climate change. This affects also the cocoa farmers in Indonesia. Cocoa has the potential to be carbon-neutral or even carbon-positive, but needs to be managed properly. Supply chain leaders like Mondelēz International have the power to influence entire supply chains to create more sustainable production systems

We also separately established a deforestation baseline for farms in the Cocoa Life program. It was interesting to see that Cocoa Life farmers do not appear to contribute to deforestation in the project area of Indonesia and therefore are not contributing to climate change through deforestation. In other areas where forest cover loss is found in landscapes near cocoa farms, further review of drivers is needed to determine the cause of forest loss events.

Andi Sitti Asmayanti: Thank you for summarizing. These insights are beneficial for the whole cocoa industry - not only cocoa farmers and communities, but also governments, suppliers, researchers, industry and our other stakeholders. In our next phase, I look forward to working with the 2,500 farmers in the Cocoa Life communities of Lampung as part of our pilot implementation. We'll incorporate climate smart agriculture in our cocoa productivity curriculum and continue sharing learnings with our partners.