Protecting Forests As An Economic Proposition For Cocoa Farmers
Andrew Brooks, Global Head of Sustainability at Olam Cocoa, explains the need to support cocoa farmers as a way to reduce deforestation, and highlights the progress that the collaborative Cocoa & Forests Initiative has seen.
Deforestation is a recognised problem in the cocoa industry. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s two biggest cocoa producers, have experienced some of the fastest rates of deforestation anywhere in the world and this is also a growing concern in many other cocoa-growing regions across Africa, South America and South-East Asia.
As an industry, we need not only to reduce deforestation but reverse it. That is why it is so heartening to see the recent progress reported by companies taking part in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, a collaboration between the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and dozens of leading cocoa and chocolate companies dedicated to protecting forests and supporting farmers to grow cocoa sustainably.
Deforestation is a complex and interconnected problem that requires us to tackle its root causes, including the fundamental problem of low farmer incomes.
Most cocoa farmers have small amounts of land with low yields that do not earn them enough to fully support their families. To bring in extra income, they may resort to clearing more land to farm.
Help cocoa farmers to improve productivity and earn a living income on their existing land and you go a long way to solving deforestation too.
That can take many forms. From helping farmers to adopt better farming techniques, like pruning, to helping them to diversify their income, for example by providing seed funding for apiaries or for other cash crops.
But our biggest opportunity by far is in agroforestry, where farmers plant other native plants alongside cocoa, because this is where we can make protecting forests and sustainable farming practices an economic proposition.
It is an approach to farming where environmental stewardship and better farmer livelihoods go hand in hand.
That is why we need multi-stakeholder initiatives like the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, which aim to protect and restore forests but understand that, to do so, we must look at a holistic solution that encompasses incomes, sustainable farming practices and community support altogether.
Sensitising farmers on the dangers of deforestation alone can only have so much impact if that is the sole route a farmer can follow to support their family.
There is a lot more work to do, but the good news is the industry has a clear blueprint to follow. To eliminate deforestation, we must make the economic case to farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices and empower them to implement them.
Do that, and we can create a more positive future for cocoa-growing communities and the environment alike.
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