Rainforest Alliance continues cocoa community support with latest annual report

The Rainforest Alliance non-profit organisation has released its annual report for 2020, highlighting key work across its global activities including support for major cocoa growing communities around the world, reports Neill Barston.

As the organisation noted, its operations combine action across the business sector, global farming and forests, and it remains actively involved in tackling deforestation – 75% of which is down to conventional agriculture that has impacted significantly on issues of climate crisis.

Consequently, as it explained, it has continued its mission to partner with farmers and forest communities to build thriving rural economies rooted in more sustainable growing practices and forest stewardship. This has included the remodelling of its certification scheme, with Rainforest Alliance last month taking over from previous schemes operated by itself and under the UTZ brand.

In terms of its response to the pandemic, the organisation has delivered a number of key regional outcomes during the coronavirus crisis.

Within specific cocoa communities there were a number of notable responses. This included its reaction to a major rainstorm in early April 2020 in JuabosoBia, western Ghana. Homes were destroyed, leaving many homeless just as the COVID crisis was kicking off.Its emergency grant helped provide displaced local families with food and personal protective equipment and contributed to the cost of essential repairs. Furthermore, this has also helped continue farmer trainings—via radio broadcast, so its partner communities can maintain certification.

Meanwhile, in Cameroon, at the start of the pandemic, experts warned that the economic fallout from the crisis could lead to an increase in child labor in vulnerable farming communities. The organisation’s emergency grant supported efforts to mitigate this risk by providing primary and secondary-level school kits for the children of more than 1,400 small-scale coffee and cocoa farmers.

Within Indonesia, it also disbursed grants to several farmers’ groups in West Java, Bali, and Central Sulawesi, with its support reportedly helping alleviate food scarcity brought on by the sharp drop in coffee and cocoa prices.

In February 2020, following two years of extensive research and consultation, the Rainforest Alliance announced a new set of ambitious measures to strengthen its cocoa certification programs.

Cocoa certification

As the organisation noted in its latest annual report,  its newly revised certification programme, founded on trust and transparency, has been designed to provide the highest level of assurance regarding the origins and conditions under which Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa is produced.

This includes stronger systems to identify and manage risk—including improved data analysis and targeted audits, as well as advanced monitoring techniques to help auditors better detect child labor and deforestation. It has also increased awareness among farmers and farmworkers of key sustainability issues, including deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Santiago Gowland, Rainforest Alliance’s recently appointed CEO, acknowledged there would be challenges ahead with its work across  70 countries, but writing in his foreword to the report, he sounded a note of optimism.

He said: “My own guiding ethos is that as human beings we all share a simple principle: We care about what’s good for us, our communities, and the natural world that we all depend on. That’s why the Rainforest Alliance’s mission resonates so deeply for me. By acting collectively and sharing responsibility, we can build a more sustainable and resilient future—one in which people and nature thrive together. It’s been hugely energizing to see how our alliance connects the rural communities who protect our forests and biodiversity with not only companies, governments, and local NGOs, but also with millions of passionate individuals around the world. 2020 brought extraordinary challenges—yet these inspiring partnerships only became stronger. And I, for one, feel much more hopeful because of it.”



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