Why the future of chocolate depends on healthy forests
Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana respectively lost 25% and 8% of primary forest between 2002-20191. With a significant portion of deforestation attributable to cocoa farming expansion, collective action to end cocoa-related deforestation was needed. This is why, at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23), the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana together with leading chocolate and cocoa companies signed the Cocoa & Forests Initiative Frameworks for Action, defining the core commitments and time-bound targets required for a deforestation-free and forest-positive cocoa supply chain.
In 2020, CFI reported on the first two years of implementation (2018 - 2019). At Barry Callebaut, we made substantial progress towards our CFI commitments, which is also supported by our Forever Chocolate plan to make sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025. This included activities to improve farmer livelihoods, reforestation and agroforestry activities, and, importantly, the mapping of cocoa farms. This involved our teams on the ground walking farm perimeters of almost 160,000km!
As we review our progress this year, what did we achieve despite the challenges of COVID-19, and how have our activities impacted farmers and farming communities on the ground?
1 Global Forest Watch: https://www.globalforestwatch.org/dashboards/global/
Supported by our customers, we have trained close to 400,000 farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) since the establishment of CFI. This total achievement well exceeds our 2022 CFI commitment of training more than 193’000 farmers in GAP activities.
Farm mapping: a critical step to ending deforestation
Shade-grown cocoa: can improve soil quality and biodiversity
Good Agricultural Practices: intercropping cocoa with banana
Cocoa seedling nursery: Kramakrom, Ghana
Good Agricultural Practices: weeding and clearing waste
Implementing CFI is about creating knowledge, establishing trust, and showing tangible results
Based in Kumasi, Ghana, Hamidu Issaka, 35, Community Development Manager, Barry Callebaut, helps cocoa farmers to acquire key skills and knowledge to improve their lives and communities by employing responsible labor practices, professionalize their farms, increase productivity and increase resilience against climate change.
Hamidu believes the mapping of farms is one of CFI’s most important activities. Farm mapping allows Barry Callebaut to continue its steady progression towards a more transparent supply chain. In addition, mapping also brings many benefits to the farmer.
“We often find that a farmer has no idea about the size of his farm, which may not seem like such a huge problem. But, for example, if a farmer thinks his plot is four hectares, when it is in fact only two hectares, consider the substantial cost savings he could make by buying fertilizer for only two hectares. In addition, it also prevents the farmer from applying too much fertilizer, which has a detrimental impact on yield. Mapping gives farmers a better understanding of their own operations.”
Mapping extends beyond measuring the size and geographical location of a cocoa farm. Household data is also collected, which allows for the development of tailored, individualized farm plans. Providing farmers with the appropriate training and services, based on their individual situation and farm profile, supports their journey out of poverty.
“When farmers see the end results of applying Good Agricultural Practices, it enables them to look beyond this season’s crop, and to a more sustainable farming future. They see that increasing cocoa yield with the same amount of land is possible.”
Hamidu believes establishing trust is a critical factor for successful engagement with farmers and farming communities.
“Achieving trust with farmers and communities involves frequent visits, being visible in the community, offering regular farmer training, and being available to provide guidance and support when needed. Showing farmers real, tangible results also achieves buy-in. An example here is the work we do with underplanting, whereby we prune back the older cocoa trees, clear weeds, and plant young seedlings underneath. Farmers see that the older trees suddenly start producing more - and they ask me why this is happening. I explain that by pruning, clearing waste and underplanting, the older trees can become healthier whilst the young ones are growing. Planting shade trees has the same effect. Shade-grown cocoa improves soil quality and can increase biodiversity on the cocoa farm.”
“We’re working hard to show farmers that rehabilitating their existing farmland and diversifying their income with other crops, for example, will not hurt their current income and, in fact, is very likely to increase it.”