Cote d’Ivoire’s Cavally Forest is reported to have seen a significant facelift thanks to a 3-year multi-sectoral restoration partnership.
Preliminary results from the first phase of the Cavally forest restoration project point to an encouraging reduction in deforestation, the natural regeneration of 7000 hectares, and the reforestation of almost 1500 hectares.
In addition, greater economic and social resilience has been observed within local communities, with more than 1400 people benefiting financially from the project, a joint press release said.
This positive development comes at a time when risks of deforestation remain a major challenge in countries producing agricultural raw materials, including cocoa.
But the collaboration between the Swiss Federal Administration (SECO), the Ivorian Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF), Nestlé, Touton, Cocoasource and Earthworm Foundation (EF) is helping roll back that challenge with the Cavally forest.
The initial phase of the three-year Cavally forest restoration project run from 2021 until the end of June 2023 with funding from Nestlé.
Beginning on July 1, 2023, the new three-year second phase of the project has commenced with more ambitious goals and a wider group of partners.
With a total investment of CHF 4 million, equivalent to $4.46 million, this new partnership goes beyond preserving the classified Cavally Forest, according to the project partners.
It also aims to strengthen the resilience of the communities in the forest’s peripheral zone and improve the transparency and traceability of the cocoa and rubber supply chain, they explained.
The Cavally forest restoration project has four main objectives, namely to prevent deforestation and improve the ecosystem by stimulating natural regeneration and rehabilitating degraded areas in close collaboration with local communities.
It is also to improve the resilience of small-scale producers by helping them increase their productivity, achieve greater income diversification and gain easier access to financing.
The project is also said to help protect the rights of the children of cocoa producers by raising awareness and providing easier access to school, in particular by acquiring birth certificates.
Finally, the Cavally restoration project would help to establish a more transparent supply chain for cocoa and rubber, in particular, by improving traceability and exploring innovative solutions (including satellite monitoring) to increase the transparency of prices and payments to producers.
“During the first phase of the Cavally Forest regeneration project, we learned that there are various sides to the problem of deforestation in the area,” said Bastien Sachet, CEO of Earthworm Foundation, the organization leading the implementation of the project.
“It is difficult to control such a large area. And the forest is attractive in terms of fertility and access to land for populations that are facing immense economic challenges.
To combat deforestation and tackle the root causes of the problem, a collective approach based on creating value for producers and rural communities is required.
This is why the presence of economic players in the rubber and cocoa value chains, coupled with a strong partnership with the government, is essential.
It is the spirit of this collaboration that we are proud to be a part of,” said Sachet.
They are active in the peripheral regions of the forest and already work with local cooperatives.
“The Cavally project is a very important initiative for us, as it allows our company to act directly within our supply chain.
We are protecting a forest adjacent to the areas where we source cocoa and creating value for the farmers we work with,” explained Corinne Gabler, Head of Confectionery & Ice Cream at Nestlé.
“We’re delighted to have been able to contribute towards the success of this first phase and look forward to working with new partners to further intensify the project’s impact,” added Gabler.
Combating cocoa-related deforestation is also a priority for Switzerland, which has pledged to increase its investments in the primary sourcing regions.
“Switzerland is an important country for the trading and processing of agricultural products, including cocoa,” commented Monica Rubiolo, Head of Trade Promotion at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
“That’s why our government is actively involved in the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa (SWISSCO).
Through our financial support for specific projects, we aim to actively contribute towards the creation of more sustainable supply chains, in close collaboration with the private sector, civil society and governments in the producer countries,” said Rubiolo.
In 2018, the government of Côte d’Ivoire adopted a national forest preservation, rehabilitation and expansion policy, which aims to enable the country to recover 20% of its forest cover by 2030.
On the ground, this policy is bearing fruit thanks to a strategy of protecting and restoring the forest in this cocoa landscape as well as the successful social inclusion of rural communities, including women and young people.
We must continue our efforts, declared Laurent Tchagba, Minister of Water and Forests in Côte d’Ivoire.
Tchagba stated, “This innovative partnership for our country reiterates our commitment to combating deforestation and strengthening the resilience of communities. I’m delighted that this project can be strengthened with trusted partners.”
The classified Cavally Forest is one of the last remaining dense forests in Côte d’Ivoire and is a primary biodiversity spot threatened by deforestation.
Côte d’Ivoire has lost most of its forest cover over the last 60 years. Between 1960 and 2021, the area of its forests shrunk from 16 million to 2.97 million hectares. This loss was caused in particular by small-scale farming.
Other local organizations involved in the restoration project include cocoa and rubber cooperatives: the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), the Société de Transformation du Bois du Cavally (STBC), the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI).
The long-term vision of this project is to work closely with several partners, particularly companies in the rubber industry to develop systemic solutions in supply chains and pave the way for the creation of sustainable, forest positive areas.
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