Mondelēz International Steps Up Efforts To Curb Deforestation In African Cocoa Belt

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - The sweet taste of chocolate sometimes contains an ingredient that most people would find very bitter if it was listed on the label. Cocoa plantations, the source of chocolate’s main raw material, have been found, in some cases, to encroach on rainforest areas, both in West Africa and South America. According to the World Resource Institute, cocoa crops are putting further pressure on the Amazon, which is already seriously threatened by livestock.

On a positive note, increasing consumer pressure and the urgency to keep forests standing to maintain climatic conditions are prompting cocoa companies to take action to ensure their product is does not carry the bitter taste of environmental destruction.

Pushing ahead with a comprehensive sustainability plan, Mondelēz International, a food and beverage company, is taking action to ensure its cocoa supply chain is deforestation-free. For that matter, the company, which is a founding member of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, is collaborating with governments in West Africa, where most cocoa plantations in the world are, to achieve its goal through a program called Cocoa Life.

In both Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Mondelēz International is establishing REDD+ partnerships. In Ghana, the company will partner with the Forestry Commission and the UN Development Programme. The efforts here center on conserving the natural ecosystems and farmland with sustainable practices, and so-called 'economic trees'.

“The Cocoa Life program in Ghana has contributed immensely to ongoing national efforts to make the cocoa sector economically and environmentally sustainable through the promotion of climate-smart approaches to cocoa farming,” said Yaw Kwakye, Head of the Climate Change Unit in Ghana’s Forestry Commission. “Spearheading the uptake of innovation and best practices in major cocoa communities in Ghana, the program remains a leader in advancing a new way of cocoa production that addresses deforestation and forest degradation.”

On top of that, Community Resource Management Areas (CREMA) will be piloted in 36 communities. "CREMAs serve as natural resource management and planning tools that are the basis for community initiatives. A manual on good environmental practices has been developed and is used in the training of farmers,” says Jephthah Mensah, Cocoa Life Ghana's Agricultural and Environmental Manager.

In the Ivory Coast, the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Environment to support its goal to reach zero deforestation in cocoa. Through the deal, they will engage local communities, map areas for risk and reforestation opportunities, such as the restoration of forest cover in the Nawa Region, which borders the Tai National Park. Besides, Cocoa Life will promote good agricultural practices to enable farmers to improve productivity, adopt agro-forestry systems and free up land for other crops or reforestation.

Cocoa Life also promotes access to high-quality seedlings and inputs, such as pesticides and fertilizer. The idea is to occupy less land with cocoa crops to make space for other crops and forest.​ ​Mondelēz is providing farmers with access to drought-tolerant seedlings and will also explore novel financial instruments to incentivize forest-friendly cocoa production.​

Last but not least, ​preserving forests is a wise economic decision, too. Deforestation is a driver of climate change and the cocoa-farming community is already feeling the impact of droughts and less rainfall that leads to lower yields and incomes.​ ​Besides benefitting the environment, the program promotes other issues in cocoa-growing communities, including education and healthcare.

In order to describe all of its Cocoa Life actions, Mondelēz has published a position paper outlining its three-tiered strategy to further protect forests under the program. The paper can be downloaded here.​

Image credit: Mondelēz International