Pioneering forest protection work in Cote D’Ivoire

Progress Blog
Pioneering forest protection work in Cote D’Ivoire

By Cedric Van Cutsem, Associate Director, Operations, Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International - 10/18/18

At Cocoa Life, combatting deforestation is a key priority built into our program. Our forests support the production of our cocoa. Yet deforestation is a core driver of climate change, causing high carbon emissions, disrupting local weather patterns, and ultimately affecting farmers’ cocoa yields. This is bad for business and bad for the farming communities: and it’s why we’re proactively tackling deforestation rates in our cocoa supply chain. Eliminating deforestation is very complex but it’s vital that we do everything we can to protect the environment and ecosystems where our cocoa is grown.

Take two of our highest cocoa-producing origin countries, for example. While Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana supply about 60% of the world’s cocoa, their deforestation rates are estimated at 2.7% and 2.9%, respectively – much higher than the global annual net deforestation rate of 0.18% (Global Forest Resources Assessments, 2015).

We are tackling this issue around the world, but in Côte d’Ivoire our work is taking particular strides with an environmental pilot project supported by the Ministry of Environment of Cote d’Ivoire and in collaboration with the United Nations REDD+ program.

As well as being the first program of its kind within Cocoa Life, many of its component projects are breaking new ground in terms of innovation to support cocoa agroforestry and protect remaining forest areas.

Patricia from Ghana
Patricia from Ghana

In partnership with The Forest Trust (TFT), we use satellite images to map tree cover in the landscape. Then we work with Impactum to build a land-use plan and engage communities to implement it. Farmers are offered contracts to plant shade trees in their cocoa plots and protect existing trees. Similarly, communities are encouraged to conserve or restore communal forested areas. In return, they receive payments to recognize the environmental benefits. This has never been done in a cocoa context before.

We recently started signing these agroforestry agreements with farmers and communities, with a target for 500 contracts signed by the end of the year. We have already signed 200, with over two months left to go.

The program is also growing opportunities for women in the community. As part of the agroforestry agreements, we support women within cocoa communities to run the nurseries as their own business. These nurseries supply trees such as fruit trees to the farmers to provide shade for the cocoa farms and work as a source of additional income.

Partnership is key to lasting change and core to everything we do at Cocoa Life – and it has been essential to our success to date. While the communities and farmers are our most important partners, we have also worked hard to build strong relationships with local government at all levels, including the Ministry of Environment of Côte d’Ivoire.

"Mondelēz International has made great progress to curb deforestation within the cocoa value chain in Côte d’Ivoire. We are committed to supporting Mondelēz’s long-term goal to achieve zero deforestation in the cocoa supply chain as part of our government agenda, and will ensure the continued support of our technical teams, particularly the REDD+ Secretariat, in these efforts. We look forward to our continued collaboration with Mondelēz and partners to tackle this issue."

Ernest Ahoulou, Coordinator, REDD+ Permanent Executive Secretary in Cote d’Ivoire

Some reports show that current cocoa-producing regions may no longer be suitable for cocoa production in the next 30 years if we don’t take concerted action to address deforestation. Our Côte d’Ivoire reforestation pilot is setting a precedent for best practice in this area, and it progresses, we will be publishing and sharing our learnings so that others can join our journey and benefit from our experience. We hope to spark a movement in the cocoa sector through these pioneering projects, but in order to do so we need more parties to become involved to help create sufficient economic incentives for forest protection and restoration.

I am so proud of the work that has been done already, but there is a lot more to do. Our farmers depend on forests to protect the fragile environment needed to grow cocoa, and we depend on our farmers. Cocoa Life strives to maintain our ecosystems and protect the land. With everyone’s help, we can deliver on this promise to current and to future generations.