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Greening the cocoa industry

In Ghana, 30 per cent of the cocoa produced is grown under agroforestry systems (© Rainforest Alliance)
In Ghana, 30 per cent of the cocoa produced is grown under agroforestry systems
© Rainforest Alliance

Conserving biodiversity, increasing incomes for small farmers and improving business practices in cocoa and chocolate companies are some of the aims of a six year project launched by the Rainforest Alliance and UN Environment Programme (UNEP). "We have been challenged on a number of occasions as to whether certification of sustainable cocoa production could really contribute to biodiversity," says Christian Mensah from the Agro Eco-Louis Bolk Institute and Rainforest Alliance. "This project will demonstrate that by supporting cocoa growers we will be able to enhance biodiversity and provide corridors for wildlife."

In Ghana, 30 per cent of the cocoa produced is grown under agroforestry systems, but research has demonstrated that all cocoa farms must have at least 40 per cent shade; an objective promoted by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards and Rainforest Alliance certification. "Farmers need to change from an unsustainable no shade system to a sustainable shade system," Mensah stresses. Productivity in Ghana is also very low at about 400 kg per hectare, whereas 1 tonne per ha can be achieved if farmers implement good agricultural practices and use clean planting materials. "In West Africa there is an extension gap and so we need to increase capacity for training farmers in sustainable agricultural practices," Mensah adds.

The project is aiming to have ten per cent of the world's cocoa production certified by the end of the project, producing more sustainable production systems that will measurably improve biodiversity conservation. Rainforest Alliance will also be working with local, national and international chocolate companies to encourage them to use certified beans. "There has been an increasing commitment by chocolate companies to use certified cocoa, but there isn't enough supply," Mensah explains. "Farmers need to be trained and the whole value chain has to be developed so that farmers have the motivation to continue to adopt best management practices."

In 2011, the project will work in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia and Ecuador. Madagascar, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Dominican Republic and Peru will be added at various stages throughout the project.

Date published: February 2011

 

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