Côte d’Ivoire’s Agbo 2 Forest is home to two rivers and hundreds of indigenous plant species. Although designated as protected, many hectares of the forest have been lost over time to illegal slash-and-burn, logging and poor agricultural practices. Supported by the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, Barry Callebaut has joined forces with partners to commence a large reforestation and biodiversity restoration initiative. Since mid-2021, more than 50,000 native trees have been planted under the reforestation project, which will continue to scale over the next three years to reach the objective of 150,000 trees on 300 hectares. This is yet another step towards meeting our aim to become carbon and forest positive by 2025.
“Ours is a very ambitious goal,” says Tilmann Silber, Senior Climate, Land and Carbon Development Manager at Barry Callebaut. “We recognize the historical impact of increased cocoa growing on land and on cocoa farming communities.”
For decades, the on-farm practice was cutting down as many trees as possible to provide more sunlight for cocoa trees. However, shade management is better for both tree and soil health. Replanting native trees under our agroforestry project shows farmers the benefits of changing their approach.
The value of strategic partnerships
An additional condition for the project’s long-term success, is the partnering with SODEFOR, Côte d’Ivoire’s forest management agency, FORLIANCE, a leading sustainable land use consultancy, and EticWood, a consultancy experienced in forestry and agroforestry implementation. Huntley Bromwell, FORLIANCE Senior Consultant, believes collaborating with stakeholders and the local community is vital to ensure all parties understand the benefits of restoring the Agbo 2 Forest. "The trees we’ve planted are already growing quickly, capturing carbon and improving temperature regulation; some of them may live longer than anyone working on this project!"
Such longevity is more than welcome, as over 50,000 trees have been planted since mid-2021. Combining skilled teams with community support has made it very evident that protecting forests and restoring high-value ecosystems is Barry Callebaut’s priority.
This forest creates a lot of jobs, and the farmers have been engaged and interested in the project. It is even a matter of pride in the community.
This sentiment is echoed by FORLIANCE’s Huntley Bromwell, affirming the project’s many rewards. "The trees will soon provide ecosystem services like soil protection and cleaner air, as well as a source of food like fruit and honey. Forests are a great economic resource, and we need to ensure that local economies benefit from both preservation and sustainable harvesting practices."
Tilmann describes the broad strategy. "We have an on-farm vision of turning monocultures into more resilient farms through agroforestry. Complementing this, we also have off-farm restoration activities, targeting degraded patches of land between farms, which local populations use for many purposes." Particular attention has been given to reintroducing strong, indigenous tree species to ensure a good survival rate and regenerate the natural ecosystem. Ten species have already been planted this first year, amongst which timber-producing trees or valuable fruit trees farmers can use for food or extra income. In the future, communities will be engaged to collect different local seeds for a wider variety of seedlings to be cultivated.
The trees will soon provide ecosystem services like soil protection and cleaner air, as well as a source of food like fruit and honey. Forests are a great economic resource, and we need to ensure that local economies benefit from both preservation and sustainable harvesting practices.