Cocoa and Forests Initiative claims progress, while key challenges remain

Governments in Ivory Coast and Ghana, along with a total of 35 major companies in the sector part of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) have reported gains towards tackling deforestation in region, reports Neill Barston.

The initiative, which has been supported by the largest businesses and brands in the industry, including Mondelez, Mars, Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Hershey, Nestle and Olam, Lindt & Sprüngli Group, Nestlé, General Mills, Cémoi and Puratos.

However, while progress has been claimed against key environmental goals, the latest update comes in the wake of studies from non-profit campaign organisation Mighty Earth, which asserted major issues remained in the region with regard to deforestation and child labour.

According to the group’s findings, based on satellite mapping, forest areas the size of Madrid, Seoul or Chicago are still being lost to industry-linked activity, including cocoa farming, with the organisation claiming that the CFI had failed to achieve its objectives over the past three years.

However, the team behind the CFI, which has also been backed by the World Cocoa Foundation, believed that genuine momentum had been attained by the venture, despite major pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, market instability resulting from the war in Ukraine, and ongoing issues of illegal mining and farming significantly affecting the cocoa sector.

As previously reported, figures from the Ivory Coast’s Ministry of Water and Forests, estimated late last year that 20-30% of all cocoa production in the country (around 2 million tonnes), was being produced illegally, further worsening deforestation rates.

Despite such a backdrop, the CFI claimed gains last year, asserting that deforestation rates were now decreasing, owing to more development of agroforestry with the distribution of 11.3 million non-cocoa trees by cocoa and chocolate companies in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Scheme tree planting

This reportedly brings the total number of multi-purpose trees supplied by the private sector since the launch of CFI to 21.7 million. In both countries, companies reached on average 72% traceability in their direct supply chains. Companies are also investing in large scale farmer training for better livelihoods and less incentive to encroach into forests.

As the CFI noted, governments’ efforts have focused on the further development of national cocoa traceability systems and forest monitoring. In Ghana, a total of 515,762 farmers have been enumerated into the Cocoa Management System, owning 845,635 farms in the Western South, Ashanti, and Central regions of Ghana.

Meanwhile, it added that Ivory Coast has mapped more than 1 million farmers 3.2 million ha of cocoa farms. The satellite forest monitoring tool Images was adopted by the Ivorian CFI signatories. Based on this system, it was observed that in the cocoa belt forest cover disturbance almost halved compared to the previous year.

Significantly, the CFI group explained that all signatories invest in reforestation. The government of Ivory Coast, with the Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF) in the lead, has planted over 28 million trees in the past year, which accounts for almost one tree per capita.

This includes the 3.5 million trees planted by Le Conseil Café Cacao as part of its new program to achieve the planting of 60 million trees on cocoa farms by 2024. In Ghana, under the leadership of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MNLR), authorities were directly involved in the restoration of 9,488 ha of degraded forest and the distribution of 5.297.739 multi-purpose tree seedlings by both the public and private sector.

According to the CFI, Ghana and Ivory Coast are looking to accelerate public private collaboration to preserve primary forests and to foster reforestation in protected areas.

This includes a further scaling of the public private partnerships for the preservation of selected primary and secondary forests in Ivory Coast. Notably, this is in addition to the Memoranda of Understanding which were signed between MINEF and cocoa companies, now bringing the area under public-private protocols for the conservation and restoration of category III classified forests to 666,081 ha.

In Ghana, seven additional companies signed onto agreements in the collaboratively identified priority Hotspot Intervention Areas (HIA) landscapes of Asunafo, Bia-Juabeso, and Atwima.

The CFI initiative, which is support by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BUZA), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Partnership for Forests (P4F) through the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) felt gains had been made.

Ghana’s representatives of the CFI scheme said: “The story of CFI is an interesting one and a lot has been invested over the past years for its implementation. The Green Ghana Project I launched in 2021 will augment the effort of CFI to restore our degraded forest reserves and off-reserve landscapes.”

Ivory Coast’s response to the latest update from the CFI said that ‘the observed decrease in deforestation in Ivory Coast is a positive signal.’ as part of the venture.

Its statement said: “The government does everything possible to completely end deforestation in the coming years. The slowing down of deforestation can be attributed to the many ongoing actions and programs, including the Cocoa & Forests Initiative.”

Expressing its view, the WCF added: “We must continue to strive for complete provenance of all cocoa no matter where it is grown or by whom. It cannot be acceptable that any cocoa that is linked to deforestation finds its way to consumer countries.Additionally, farmers must be rewarded and benefit from the traceability protocols that make this possible. We look forward to the next phase of Cocoa & Forests Initiative that will bring us closer to this goal.”

According to IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative that has played a key role in facilitating the programme, said that it was crucial that signatories to the agreement signed three years ago maintained their present levels of ambition to complete its work.

It added that it looked forward to contributing ongoing ventures including joint investments in forest preservation, and national traceability systems with the aim of assuring community engagement.



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