Touton delivers Cocoa and Forests Initiative progress, yet major challenges remain

The Touton Group has released its latest Cocoa and Forests Initiative report (CFI), in which it has claimed key progress, including doubling the amount of farms that it has engaged with as part of the key cross-industry initiative, writes Neill Barston.

According to the French business, it has worked closely with industry partners as part of the ongoing scheme, which was first signed by a total of 36 cocoa and chocolate producing companies, alongside regional governments in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which account for two thirds of the cocoa trade.

The company’s latest study asserted that it has significantly increased its engagement with farming groups in West Africa, with a total of 69,673 farms in Ghana and 52,698 being mapped on behalf of clients within the region.

In releasing its recent report, Touton said it remained committed to delivering on sustainability goals through a collaborative approach with public and private companies and organisations,  with the initiative having been signed by leading companies including Barry Callebaut , Cargill, Cemoi, Nestle, Mondelez, Lindt & Mars Wrigley, as previously reported by Confectionery Production.

As part of its latest report, Touton noted that its core goals have focused on promoting forest protection and restoration, sustainable agriculture, and community empowerment initiatives, particularly focusing on women and youth, within cocoa supply chains in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Deforestation remains a significant issue for West Africa, with the two West African nations having lost a large proportion of their respective primary forests over the past five decades due to intense industrial activity, including from the cocoa sector.

Furthermore, child labour remains endemic within Ghana and Ivory Coast’s supply chains, with the most recent studies stating that over 1.5 million minors remain exposed to the worst forms of child labour including heavy agricultural lifting work, using machetes for harvesting, as well as pesticide spraying.

Touton’s report does not specifically address the issue of how it is directly seeking to reduce child labour, but it noted that in 2022 it  joined the ILO Child Labour Platform (CLP) that addresses Child Labour and Child Protection with governments, civil society and private sector actors in leading cocoa and coffee growing countries.

The business acknowledged that climate change impacting on cocoa communities with poor harvests during the past two years pushing up global prices, has impacted on farmers and their families in the region, and noted that children’s vulnerability to child labour as a result of challenging conditions on the ground should be ‘addressed as a matter of urgency.’

Company progress
In its overall assessment of work on the CFI venture, Touton claimed it has moved towards sustainable sourcing that has incorporated requirements from the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), and stated it is close to achieving 100% coverage of farms within its direct supply chain.

Among its core achievements, the company said it had noted a doubling in the number of cocoa farms mapped, and areas covered by Deforestation Risk Assessments.  There has also been a 60+% increase in the number of multipurpose trees distributed during the reporting year. Representing a total of over 640 000 trees planted, this figure illustrates the surge in agroforestry interventions, in line with the sector’s intensified efforts to protect ecosystems. Touton said it continues to work with farmers and other experts to identify the right shade and fruit-bearing tree species that can boost cocoa yield while diversifying income in a way best suited to every given environment.

In addition, the company said that the number of Village Savings & Loan Associations that Touton has set up this year has more than doubled, to reach close to 1000 local organisations. These associations place farming communities in the driver’s seat to provide access to finance and promote collective thinking on the businesses that can generate extra income at the individual or community level. The success stories collected in the report, especially from youth and women, highlight the spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity that are flourishing alongside cocoa farming.

Moreover, the group said that its agri-preneur model by which local farmers and youth are trained to deliver agricultural services, tree planting, and forest protection sensitisation is gaining traction amongst Ivorian and Ghanaian farmers.

In terms of landscape management, the business noted it had jointed the Sambirano Valley Landscape project in Madagascar and enrolls in phase 2 of the Cavally Forest one in Cote d’Ivoire to combat deforestation, while strengthening the resilience of cocoa farmers, in the face of climate change.

Several pilot programmes initiated by Touton in producing countries explain how local influencers advocate protecting forests and promoting tree planting, notably through Community Forest Protection Committees and Child Ambassador programmes. In Ghana, Touton’s local team also trialed a new type of intervention to address environmental and social issues related to menstrual health.

Furthermore, the company acknowledged the need for continuous improvements relating to core CFI goals in order to ensure long-term cocoa supply sustainability, including addressing climate change within its supply chains.

In a concluding statement in its report, the company said: “Throughout last season, supply-chain actors worked hard to face the challenges brought on by world events, from the war in Ukraine, with its effects on financial markets, hikes in logistical costs and staggering inflation in producing and consuming countries, to anticipated shortfalls in production due to climate and spread of disease in the two largest producers.

“Meanwhile, economic operators acted to strengthen systems and processes in view of the changing regulatory environment. All the same, one would have been hard pressed to predict the extent of the combined impact of all these factors on the cocoa market and prices. More than ever before we need to work together to ensure the long-term sustainability of the supply-chain.

“This means combining our efforts at a pre-competitive level on key challenges such as climate change, while ensuring Touton’s operations are fit to deliver on the requirements of the growing body of regulations that impact our commodity supply-chains. We need to scale-up our efforts to support partner farmers in the necessary adaption to changing conditions, while continuing to engage with the authorities of cocoa producing countries on integration of data collection and reporting systems. As we finalise our Carbon Roadmap, the different pillars of sustainability come together to provide us with a clear path to deliver holistically on our ambitions.”

Related content

Leave a reply

Confectionery Production