Cocoa sector takes deforestation seriously

Cocoa sector takes deforestation seriously

General - 30 June, 2020

Together with partner organizations, TBI achieved a number of successes in the cocoa sector last year. In Ghana, civil society organizations have been taking part in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI). Major chocolate companies called on the EU to regulate the European market for cocoa and cocoa products. And TBI participated in talks about deforestation as a result of cocoa production, as part of the Dutch Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa.

Cocoa and deforestation are almost synonymous. At the end of the 20-year production cycle, when the soil is exhausted and production ends, small cocoa farmers cut down forests to establish new cocoa plantations. This problem also occurs in forest reserves; as a study implemented by Tropenbos Ghana found, deforestation for cocoa production has grown explosively since 2010. In Ghana, a substantial investment in the cocoa sector to stop deforestation and restore some of the degraded forest land is needed. The will and the potential are there. For example, the 35 member companies of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), an enterprise supported by the Sustainable Trade Initiative and the World Cocoa Foundation, have committed to ending deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain.

For a forest strategy to succeed, non-state actors also need to be involved in the national discussion. This is one of the lessons of the FLEGT-VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) process in Ghana: any legal reforms must come from a deliberative process that allows government, industry actors, national civil society, and cocoa farmers to make decisions together. This is outlined in the 2018 policy brief Transferring lessons from FLEGT-VPA to promote governance reform in Ghana’s cocoa sector, carried out by TBI, Tropenbos Ghana, Fern, EcoCare Ghana and Forest Watch Ghana. Over the course of several years, all actors in the FLEGT-VPA process have learned to listen to, and respect each other, and make policy together.

The policy brief was well received in Brussels and Ghana, partly thanks to TBI lobbying. CFI has now invited civil society to take a place on the steering committee. This is significant; for the first time the CFI initiative recognizes the role that civil society organizations may play in future reforms of the cocoa sector to ensure social and environmental inclusion.

There was also a lot of movement at the EU level in 2019. The European Commission is considering developing a VPA for cocoa in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, with Fern taking the lead and TBI in a supporting role. Fern, together with some Members of the European Parliament, organized several conferences on the cocoa sector in Brussels, in which the private sector also participated. This resulted in a statement from three of the largest chocolate companies that urged the European Parliament to impose a due diligence obligation on all companies that sell cocoa or cocoa products on the EU market, in order to secure the long-term sustainability of the cocoa supply chain.

In 2019, a study by Tropenbos Ghana showed conclusively that encroachment on Ghana’s forest reserves had increased tenfold since 2010. Some experts estimate that 20 to 30 percent of cocoa comes from these reserves. The study received a lot of publicity, but the Forestry Commission disputed the facts.

TBI started participating in the Dutch Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (DISCO) in 2019. Similar initiatives exist in other European chocolate-producing countries. DISCO includes chocolate companies, retailers, traders, the government, banks and NGOs. The topics discussed at DISCO include child labour, a living wage and deforestation. The role of TBI is to maintain the focus on deforestation, landscape restoration and agroforestry.

Published in the Annual Report 2019