Barry Callebaut progresses deal with Nestlé on cocoa sector agroforestry

Barry Callebaut has reported renewed progress on agroforestry plans combining with Nestlé, targeting environmental improvements and positive climate impact measures in core cocoa markets including Ghana and Ivory Coast, writes Neill Barston.

The Swiss-headquartered company’s latest update on its approach to engaging on major issues of climate change and deforestation linked to the sector. Its strategy aims to add value for farmers, as well as restoring regional ecosystems – which have been heavily impacted in recent decades against a backdrop of major issues relating to illegal mining and wider agricultural land clearance.

As the business noted, its long-term agreement Nestlé involves 11,500 ha of agroforestry, including payments for ecosystem services (PES) to more than 6,000 farmers in Ivory Coast. This is reportedly already underway, as the company works with three cooperatives in the South-Western parts of Ivory Coast already engaged in the project, scaling to ten cooperatives and reaching full scale after five years of planting.

Significantly, the company confirmed that it is taking a holistic approach to its environmental goals, through supporting communities as well as direct measures to intensify carbon-reduction measures in its supply chains.

While the scheme notes encouraging progress, the scale of the challenge before the sector as a whole remains consideration. As Confectionery Production has previously reported, recent satellite mapping projects from Mighty Earth environmental campaign group have revealed that significant tracts of land are still being lost within Ghana and Ivory Coast.

The non-profit organisation’s studies found that in 10,550 hectares of deforestation in 2022 within cocoa-growing regions within West Africa, with 8,188 hectares of this clearance claimed to have occurred within forest reserves.

In addition, the group has been working with RADD (Radar for Detecting Deforestation) forest-alert data from 2019 onwards to identify areas of recent land clearance across Ghana, which is also said to have lost more than 2.5 million hectares (33.7%) of its forest since the early 1990s.

Company plans
According to Barry Callebaut, which serves major chocolate markets around the world, its latest project is fully aligned with the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which aims to make its cocoa supply chain more sustainable, through an overarching Net Zero Roadmap and commitment to regenerative agriculture.

Consequently, this joint partnership supports Nestlé’s and Barry Callebaut’s climate-smart cocoa ambitions, by aiming to remove up to 1.3 million tons of CO2e over 25 years. This project also aligns with the Science-based Target initiative (SBTi), as well SustainCert verification and the Gold Standard Foundation.

Darrell High, Cocoa Manager at Nestlé, believed there was strong progress being made. He said: “As part of Nestlé’s Net Zero roadmap, we are committed to reducing our business’ climate impact all the way to the farms we source from. A trusted partner like Barry Callebaut is essential to achieving success. Over 21,000 football fields are covered by our joint agroforestry project to support farmers who are part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan.”

From Barry Callebaut’s perspective, the company said that through its  agroforestry efforts, it aims to mitigate the impact of climate change and restore natural biodiversity while helping cocoa farmers to prosper and increase their long-term productivity.

As it noted, such approaches to ecological management aim to help farmers to develop cocoa farms that are more resilient to drought and diseases, have better soil quality, produce better and higher yields, and provide them with additional sources of income.

Significantly, as the company observed, cocoa grown under shade trees is also linked to increased biodiversity, carbon removals, and nutrient retention in the soil. This has involved the business liaising with sector experts to determine an appropriate mix of mostly native species in order to promote land regeneration, attract pollinators and deliver additional income for agricultural workers.

Vital tree planting
Tilmann Silber, Global Forest and Carbon Program Lead at Barry Callebaut, who recently offered a key update on its global actions at the Choco Tec event in Cologne, Germany, revealed the value of correct tree planting to enrich forest areas was of notable importance.

He said: “As part of our Forever Chocolate plan, we invest into carbon removal activities jointly with our farmers and customers. This pioneering partnership with Nestlé, a company strongly committed to climate action, shows that agroforestry can deliver significant positive impact where it matters most – in the shared value chain. The collaboration allows us to support the planting of trees on cocoa farms, while restoring the ecosystems, removing carbon from the atmosphere, diversifying farmers’ income and ultimately increasing farm climate resilience.”

According tot he company, its intensified agroforestry approach, launched in 2022 in Ghana and Ivory Coast, has placed a core focus on long-term success through training, extended monitoring and payments for ecosystem services (PES).

As the business noted, PES means that farmers get paid on a yearly basis for the survival of the planted trees as a reward for carbon removal. Next to the additional money from the PES, the fruit trees planted among the cocoa allow the farmers to further diversify their income.

Significantly, the company noted that its agroforestry schemes are based on  farmer-centric, agile strategies building on trust and loyalty. This includes an extended programme of introducing agricultural workers in the first year of signing up to its programme, to farm diagnostic techniques, as well as training on planting design, plus technical training, and provision of seedling kits.

The following year, replacement seedlings are distributed if needed, and technical coaching continues with a focus on pruning assistance. The first payment for ecosystem services according to their seedlings’ performance, also takes place. As Barry Callebaut noted, having formal rights to the land allows farmers to safely invest in their land in order to secure their livelihoods.

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