Olam Food Ingredients’ latest cocoa and forests report highlights deforestation action

Olam Food Ingredients has released findings from its latest Cocoa and Forests Initiative report (CFI), revealing key environmental work by the business regarding its supply chain activities in Ghana and Ivory Coast, writes Neill Barston.

The business is one of several dozen major players with the cocoa sector that signed up to the landmark CFI agreement to protect the region’s forests in 2017, and while the sector has continued to engage in positive action, campaign groups including Mighty Earth have noted that sizeable areas of forested areas are still being lost in West Africa on a yearly basis.

As Olam has noted in its annual report that the scale of the challenge is significant, yet according to the company, its engagement on the issue in 2021 has made notable headway. In particular, last year the company reached a target of 100% deforestation monitoring across its direct supply chain. Its work has also seen the distribution of 864,979 forest trees to cooperatives in Ivory Coast. Additionally within the nation, it has delivered a total of 771,343 forest trees (89.17%) received by farmers and planted in their cocoa farms. This also includes additional work with private nurseries to help improve survival rates.

According to the business, it has further assisted the sector in training and supporting 34,664 farmers on agroforestry in cocoa farms (7,682 on behalf of ofi and 26,982 on behalf of customers), in addition to supporting 4,447 youth teams on services development for farmers in Good Agricultural Practices which include forest trees planting (898 on behalf of ofi and 3,549 on behalf of customers).

Within Ghana, the business has supported the distribution of 512,960 multi-purpose trees, for on-farm restoration via agroforestry (275,044 behalf of ofi and 237,916 on behalf of customers). It has also conducted mapping on 48,354 farms to ensure cocoa is not being sourced from forest lands, classified forests, national parks or reserves (11,304 on behalf of ofi and 37,050 behalf of customers).

OIam has also trained 40,292 farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (8,478 on behalf of ofi and 31,814 on behalf of customers, as well as helping 19,821 farmers apply agroforestry techniques (6,903 on behalf of ofi and 12,918 on behalf of customers.

Overall progress

As the company added, since the founding of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative in 2017, ofi cocoa has been taking action to eliminate deforestation and work with farming communities that depend on cocoa for their livelihoods, both in Ivory Coast and Ghana, and across our global cocoa supply chain (see the company’s latest report in full here).

These actions also form part of Cocoa Compass, the company’s sustainability ambition for the future of the cocoa sector. Cocoa Compass commits to challenging goals within our global, direct cocoa supply chain. These include achieving living incomes for farmers, putting children first, and protecting and restoring forests.

Furthermore, over the past year, the company added that it has continued to support cocoa farming communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to protect and restore forests.

It has distributed 1.4 million trees to farmers that they can use to create agroforestry systems that restore land by  planting fruit and shade trees alongside cocoa crops. This not only reintroduces tree cover, but also helps improve cocoa yields for farmers by providing sun protection for the crop and an additional source of income.

To protect land in the long term, the business added that it needs partnerships that bring together everyone with a stake in the landscape, from communities and farmers to companies, NGOs, and government organisations.

In 2018, as part of its AtSource sustainability insights platform, the company started working with Rainforest Alliance and the UK government’s Partnerships for Forests (P4F) to protect and restore the Sui River Forest Reserve in Ghana. It worked closely with community members, local farmers, the Ghanaian Forestry Commission, and COCOBOD to introduce climate-smart agriculture techniques and restore the landscape.

This involved setting up Land Management Boards to bring these stakeholders together and give the local community a say in how the land is managed. But the business went further, providing training and support to local farmers to help them adopt more climate-friendly farming techniques.


Andrew Brooks, Head of Cocoa Sustainability, believed that strong progress had been made regarding deforestation within West Africa, though he acknowledged there remained notable challenges ahead. In a blog on the topic, he explained that the root cause of the issue remained poverty, with farmers often restricted to small plots of land that did not typically yield sufficient revenues to support their families, with the result being that many resort to clearing more land in a bid to earn a living.

Furthermore, he revealed that there had been “an influx of immigrant farmers into Ivory Coast and Ghana from sub-Saharan Africa,” who were struggling to earn enough on subsistence crops at home, resulting in them crossing borders into West Africa to set up illicit cocoa farms and networks in poorly protected national parks and forest reserves.

Speaking on the overall issue, Brooks, said: “When we came together with others in our industry in 2017 to launch the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), we knew we faced a significant challenge. One that required collective action at a scale to match it. Five years on, the scale of that challenge has developed new dimensions. The Covid19 pandemic created added uncertainty and made it even more difficult to reach cocoa farming communities and act to restore landscapes. However, we’re continuing to make progress toward our goals.

“In the past year, we’ve distributed tens of thousands of trees, mapped hundreds of hectares of land, and restored significant amounts of previously degraded forest. But tackling deforestation in the long term is about more than just planting trees. It is about creating the right conditions for farmers to earn a living income and for their families to access education and plan for the future.

“In 2021, together with our customers and other partners, we’ve worked with farmers to help them find ways to diversify and grow their incomes, as well as help communities access credit that allows them to save for unexpected costs or borrow money to start a new business. In this report, we share the impact these actions are having on cocoa communities and the landscapes in which they live. Their stories show the potential for change when we come together as an industry and offer a glimpse of progress towards a more positive future in which nature is protected, farmers earn a living income and communities thrive. “

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