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Protecting forests in West Africa: This is how we do it!

Cookstoves, bees, village savings and loan associations, and agroforestry help create a more sustainable cocoa supply chain.

May 20, 2024

Deforestation of tropical rainforests is a major issue in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which together produce nearly two-thirds of the world’s supply of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate. In 2018, Cargill joined the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, a public private partnership that focuses on protecting and restoring forests in West Africa, while also fostering more sustainable cocoa production and community engagement.

We believe farming and forests can and must coexist. Through our Cargill Cocoa Promise program, we work with projects like the Cocoa & Forests Initiative to improve socio-economic and climate resilience for cocoa farmers, enhance safety and wellbeing of children and families in cocoa growing areas, promote environmental best practices and protect forests. 

2023 Cocoa & Forests Initiative Progress ReportPhoto: @Makke Hussein / Unforeseen Studio Cargill’s 2023 Cocoa & Forests Initiative Progress Report (PDF) provides an overview of our work in Ghana and  Côte d’Ivoire to end deforestation and restore forest areas. This report shares on-the-ground progress, including these key areas: 

  • Forest protection and restoration  
  • More sustainable cocoa production and farmers’ livelihoods. 
  • Community engagement and social inclusion  

Cargill’s 2023 forest protection progress in West Africa 

.01% forest loss since 2014 in Cargill’s mapped cocoa supply chain  

Cargill is committed to transform our agricultural supply chains to be deforestation-free by 2030. Each year, we increase our supply chain to increase transparency and give us more sophisticated insights through Global Positioning System (GPS) polygon mapping. We are pleased to report that as of the 2022/2023 crop year, the majority of farmers in our Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire direct supply chains are now polygon mapped. As of crop year 2023/2024, farmers will be required to have all their cocoa plots mapped and pass our deforestation risk area assessment to enter our Cocoa Promise supply chain.

4 million trees distributed through on-farm agroforestry  

“Over the years, thanks to a strong field presence, socialization, and incentives, farmers understand the importance of the project and some even plant trees on their own initiative. After 2 years of planting, some trees are over 3 meters high.” Pierre Koffi, Cooperative Technician since 2020.

In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana we work with several partners – including PUR, Agromap, FOA S.A.R.L, Impactum and FORIG – to integrate different agroforestry models in the communities where we source cocoa. The models incorporate design elements to promote income diversification, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. 

Clean cookstoves help prevent deforestation, promote health

Agroforestry makes a significant impact in cocoa communities. But at Cargill, we ask ‘what else? how can we do more? Or do it better?’ – and we continue to look for new, innovative solutions. Surprisingly, this brought us to cookstoves. Traditional cookstoves need fuel from trees that are cut down, contributing to the slow degradation of the forest. So, we started a clean cookstove building project with PUR. The clean cookstoves feature better thermal efficiency and firepower, with less wood consumption. Also, local women building and selling the cookstoves have a new sources of income.

130,000 farmers trained on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) 

In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana we implement our farmer coaching model with the support of our technical partners. Coaches are typically farmers themselves and work with farmers to increase Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) adoption, guide efficient use of inputs, and stimulate productivity. The coaching integrates Cocoa Action criteria to measure GAP adoption rates.

The buzz on beekeeping and biodiversity

The buzz on beekeeping and biodiversityPhoto: Sandrine Benitah Bees and their efficient pollination methods ensure our world has the plant diversity that supports the delicate balance of our ecosystem. They also represent a potential income source, making them good for biodiversity and for farmers. To connect the bees and the farmers, Cargill launched an innovative beekeeping project with PUR to create awareness for healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, while promoting income diversification for farmers. In Côte d’Ivoire, farmers have been able to harvest a total of 279 liters of honey. Côte d’Ivoire is currently a net importer of honey, so demand for this product – and this sweet partnership – is high.

20,000 members of women-led village savings and loans supported

Empowering women is a key lever of change in cocoa communities and a priority for the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. Cargill collaborates with several partners to improve the economic position of women through women-led Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). When women have access to affordable credit, they can take steps towards economic stability within their households and independence by becoming income generators. After a successful three-year collaboration with CARE to support VSLAs, in 2023 we kicked off a second phase of the program that aims to promote a more sustainable and food-secure world.

The Cocoa & Forests Initiative helps us to focus together – as a company and an industry – to help drive progress toward zero deforestation in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Related: View Cargill’s previous Cocoa & Forests Initiative Progress Report

Photo Credit Header Image: @Makke Hussein / Unforeseen Studio