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Rooted in Responsibility: The Cocoa and Forests Initiative Story

This company represents a unique coming together of and chocolate companies and governments of the world's two leading cocoa producing countries, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. This ground-breaking initiative aims to end deforestation and restore the health of forests, making pivotal strides toward sustainable cocoa production. The cocoa industry, valued at approximately $131.7 billion globally in 2019, carries the burden of responsibility when it comes to balancing a drive for profit with environmentally conscious actions. The stewardly steps into this space, fostering meaningful change.

The Genesis of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative

The was born out of the realization that cocoa production was a significant driver for deforestation, particularly in West Africa where around 70% of the world's cocoa is produced. The () and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) came together in March 2017, laying the foundation for the CFI alongside 12 leading cocoa and chocolate companies.

brown and black dried leaves on black wooden surface

This ambitious initiative was formally launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in November 2017, with numerous companies pledging to promote environmentally friendly cocoa production. The government of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana also committed to halt deforestation caused by cocoa farming, making the CFI a powerful public-private partnership.

Combating Deforestation: The CFI's Strategic Actions

Efforts to combat deforestation constitute the core of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative. Its primary strategy involves putting an end to further loss of forest cover by implementing strong, measurable and verifiable actions for forest conservation and restoration. This is backed by a firm commitment from participating companies to not source cocoa from national parks, protected areas, or any land with significant amounts of forest cover.

In the efforts to realize these objectives, the CFI strategy encompasses a broad spectrum of actions; from improving farmer livelihoods and growing more cocoa on less land, to greater supply chain transparency and stricter governance of land use. In 2020, the CFI also published guidelines for responsible farm development in an attempt to ensure cocoa production in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire can continue to thrive without damaging the forests.

Public-Private Partnerships: Uniting for a Greener Future

Public-private partnerships play a crucial role in the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, offering a collaborative approach to addressing deforestation. The governments of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana have been instrumental in the initiative, creating regulations and laws to halt illegal deforestation and promoting sustainable farming practices.

In addition to this, some of the largest and most renowned cocoa and chocolate companies have committed to the cause, including , Mars, Hershey, Mondelez International, and Ferrero all pledging to implement CFI principles throughout their entire supply chains.

Such influential public-private cooperation – leveraging resources, influence, and expertise from different stakeholders – exemplifies the power of collective action and transcends the boundaries typically associated with tackling such expansive environmental issues. It's a testament to the spirit of unity, innovation, and a shared vision for a greener, more sustainable future.

Achievements and Milestones of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative

The Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) is a collective movement aimed at eradicating cocoa-driven deforestation and forest degradation. As part of the broader global sustainability agenda, it has made significant strides and achieved numerous milestones since its inception.

One of the notable achievements of the CFI was in 2017, when 35 cocoa companies agreed to eliminate deforestation from their respective supply chains. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, during the 2019 CFI meeting in Davos, the same companies further engaged in a partnership to end deforestation and restore degraded forest areas by 2020.

a cocoa plant hanging from a tree branch

Under the CFI, cocoa programs with environmental elements have been instituted in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two of the world's leading cocoa producing countries. In the west African country of Côte d'Ivoire, cocoa production is the leading cause of deforestation. Between 2000 and 2019, 2.4 million hectares (Mha) of forest was replaced by cocoa plantations – an area almost the size of Rwanda – according to new analysis by Trase and its partners at UCLouvain. It represents 45% of the total deforestation and forest degradation in the country.

The CFI has drafted regulations for forest conservation and launched programs for small scale agriculture to reduce poverty, a key driver of deforestation.

CFI's Framework for Action: Principles and Objectives

The Cocoa and Forests Initiative follows a comprehensive Framework for Action which sets out the guiding principles and broader objectives of the initiative. The framework was developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders and key actors, encompassing the worlds of business, government, civil society and academia.

man writing on paper

The Framework lays out a series of key commitments which parties are expected to uphold. These commitments encompass the protection and restoration of forests that have been severely degraded, the promotion of sustainable production and farmers' livelihoods, and social inclusion and community engagement. This aligns with a wider commitment to global sustainability objectives – such as those encapsulated in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Another crucial objective of the CFI's Framework for Action involves tackling the underlying social and economic drivers of deforestation. This encompasses a range of activities, including developing alternative livelihoods for farmers, addressing farming practices, and promoting crop diversity.

Community Involvement and Engagement Strategies

The engagement of local communities is a fundamental part of CFI's model. It recognizes that the people who live and work within forest landscapes are key players in their conservation and management.

As part of its community involvement approach, the CFI encompasses strategies such as participatory mapping of community lands and forest resources. This empowers local people to contribute to land use planning and to verify and manage their resources effectively.

The initiative also leverages existing community structures and networks – such as farmer cooperatives and traditional authority systems – to facilitate dialogue and collaboration. By so doing, it strengthens the connections between local communities, government, business and civil society.

Moreover, it encourages and supports communities in developing and implementing community action plans for forest protection and sustainable income generation.+

The Role of Technology in Forest Conservation Efforts

Advancements in technology have been instrumental in supporting forest conservation efforts. Particularly within the context of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI), technology is proving critical. It plays a pivotal role in curbing deforestation rates, mapping cocoa farming areas, enhancing the transparency of the cocoa supply chain and promoting sustainable cocoa farming.

Satellite imagery is one such technological tool. It enables effective tracking and monitoring of forest-related activities at a global scale. Its use, undertaken as part of CFI's agenda, helped identify deforestation hotspots and provided critical information on where conservation interventions are most needed.

Furthermore, Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing technologies are used for mapping the extent of cocoa plantations and adjacent forest areas. These detailed maps help monitor impact and guide strategies to reduce environmental impact.

Lastly, the adoption of digital tools, like applications and software, is an innovative way of empowering cocoa farmers. These digital tools provide useful information about best practices, market prices, and weather patterns, which in turn lead to more productive and sustainable cocoa farming practices.

Assessing the Impact: CFI's Progress and Challenges

Since its establishment in 2017, the Cocoa and Forests Initiative has made significant strides in promoting sustainable cocoa production and forest conservation. In Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, where the production of cocoa is of great economic importance, CFI has led to the creation of 1.4 million maps of cocoa farms and registered a notable decrease in deforestation rates.

However, alongside these achievements, the initiative has faced inevitable challenges. While it strives to cease further forest degradation, the ever-growing global demand for cocoa poses a persistent hurdle. Additionally, facilitating the adoption of sustainable cocoa farming practices among smallholder farmers, who constitute the majority of cocoa producers, has proved to be a difficult task.

Implementing robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the progress towards the CFI commitments is another ongoing challenge. This is compounded by the lack of data accuracy and consistency, which makes it difficult to track and verify changes in deforestation and reforestation rates.

The Way Forward: Expanding the Reach of the CFI

While challenges exist, opportunities for expanding the reach and scale of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative also abound. Expanding geographically to include other major cocoa-producing countries could amplify the initiative's impact. Moreover, strengthening partnerships and alliances with key stakeholders would result in a more effective initiative.

Further embracing and integrating digitization into all facets of CFI operations would also enhance implementation. Such efforts could promote better data collection, monitoring, and reporting capabilities. Additionally, providing further support to cocoa farmers through the implementation of farmer-focused initiatives can enhance their capacity to undertake sustainable cocoa farming.

Conclusively, the Cocoa and Forests Initiative presents a promising model, albeit faced with challenges. With vast untapped potential, this initiative offers an auspicious way forward in combating deforestation due to cocoa farming, and in promoting sustainable cocoa production practices. Rooted in responsibility, the story of CFI embodies the crucial role of multi-stakeholder collaborations in solving complex global challenges.

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