Mondelez joins Olam in key sector collaboration supporting Brazilian cocoa agroforestry

A key collaboration has been formed between Olam Food Ingredients, Mondelez International, Partnerships for Forests (P4F) and The Nature Conservancy in a bid to intensify efforts to halt deforestation and restore degraded land in Pará, Brazil, for sustainable cocoa agroforestry, writes Neill Barston.

According to the group, it is aiming to help bring a total of 48,000 hectares of land under its environmentally conscious guided management by 2023, as the issue of significant tree loss remains a major problem within the region.

As the combined industry collective noted, deforestation rates in Pará are the highest of any Brazilian state, with 1.2 million hectares of forest having been lost in the last five years alone, mainly as forest is cleared to make way for cattle farming.

Together, the partners are tackling this by promoting cocoa agroforestry – where cocoa is grown alongside native trees and fruits – as a more profitable alternative. The large-scale project aims to restore lost tree cover and help farmers to diversify and grow their livelihoods. It is also intended to encourage other industry players to replicate the model and help accelerate progress towards protecting this vital landscape.

The project is an expansion of a successful first phase which recently won Nature-Based Project of the Year at the Business Green Leaders Awards 2021. More than 250 farmers have already signed a zero-deforestation agreement, 16,000 hectares of land have been brought under sustainable management, and 1.6 million Brazilian reais of subsidised credit have been unlocked for implementation and management of agroforestry.

Consequently, the next phase of the project will scale up further to cover 700 farmers and 48,000 hectares of land by 2023. Farmers and rural technicians will get added support and training on cocoa agroforestry through a Technical Assistance Hub co-funded by Mondelēz, P4F, Humanize Institute, GIZ and Extreme E. They will also be supported by ofi and Mondelēz with premiums for their cocoa in exchange for zero deforestation and reforestation commitments and get help accessing credit through a partnership with Banco da Amazônia.

M. Sathyamurthy, President of ofi’s cocoa business in Latam & Americas, said: “As a leading supplier of cocoa beans and cocoa ingredients, if we are to create a sustainable future for cocoa farmers and our planet, we must not only put an end to deforestation in the Amazon, we have to help reverse it. Together with our partners, we are demonstrating how proven agroforestry techniques can restore precious forest and generate economic opportunities for farmers, supporting them to be agents of positive change. The project is also an example of how the most granular level of Olam’s sustainability insights platform, AtSource Infinity, can deliver transformational impact at scale for communities as well as landscapes, by promoting education and giving female farmers the training and tools, they need to diversify their incomes.

“This next phase will go even further, addressing various bottlenecks that we know are preventing farmers from adopting sustainable practices from problems accessing credit to a lack of skilled labor and technical assistance.”

Barbara Ferreira, Senior Project Officer at Partnerships for Forests, said: “The pilot phase addressed the main challenges faced by farmers in an integrated manner by increasing access to the value-chain actors, helping to unlock credit and promoting rural technical assistance. This is all thanks to a multidisciplinary partnership established between investors, industry and other partners to align strategy, define priorities and find solutions together. The second phase aims to provide scale and sustain positive outcomes for the long term with an increased focus on the role of women in agroforestry, training rural technicians and equipping young people to provide specialized labor services.”

José Otavio Passos, Amazon Director at TNC Brazil, added that Cocoa agroforestry has been proven to be more than an environmental solution. He believed that it is a better way of generating income for families living in the countryside and also an economic model capable of keeping the land healthy in the long term, precisely because it brings social and economic benefits, in addition to environmental ones.

In partnership with Mondelēz International, ofi will continue to collect data on the project and measure its impact through the Olam Farmer Information System (OFIS). The app collects detailed productivity and socio-environmental data on each farmer participating in the project and delivers tailored advice to help them improve productivity and biodiversity.

The data will also be made available to ofi’s customers through AtSource. Furthermore, the project is being expanded with the support of a new investment platform funded by Instituto Humanize, GIZ, and electric vehicle racing series Extreme E.

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