“Bringing people together on topics that unite. This was the objective and the great success of the Cocoa & Forest Knowledge Exchange programme launch webinar held online in January. Kinomé and its partner Alisos, with the support of the World Bank, are launching a ten-month exchange programme on the cocoa sector in 2021. The objective is to promote sustainable cocoa production in Latin America and West Africa. The programme allows actors from all levels of the cocoa chain, from both continents, to meet, share experiences and build solutions for sustainable cocoa together. During the first webinar, the participants all expressed their enthusiasm, suggesting constructive exchanges during the next meetings.
In recent years, cocoa bean producing countries have made strong commitments to fight deforestation and promote a sustainable cocoa sector. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which together produce two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, have launched the Initiative Cocoa & Forest Initiative (CFI), closely followed by Colombia. Governments and the private sector are committed to preserving forests, restoring forests degraded by cocoa farms, increasing yields for small farmers and improving the living conditions of rural communities. However, despite the will of governments and the private sector to accelerate the implementation of these commitments, their translation into public policies is not evident. Moreover, the transition to sustainable cocoa production represents costs that small-scale producers are not able to bear. Agroforestry, i.e., a planting system that intelligently combines trees and cocoa trees on the same plot of land, makes it possible to diversify sources of income and thus increase the resilience of farms, as well as to improve the biodiversity of cocoa farms. The triptych agroforestry, protection of the last forest massifs and restoration of degraded forests is one of the options identified to accelerate the fight against cocoa-related deforestation. However, it is also a costly production method that is not very profitable in the first few years before the trees reach maturity.
The challenge of the Cocoa & Forest Knowledge Exchange programme is to provide concrete tools to transform the entire cocoa value chain in Africa and South America, based on the challenges encountered in the field. The sessions will address the issue of production methods, financing of agroforestry projects, ways to remunerate sustainable cocoa producers in a dignified way, and the valorisation of cocoa (notably through certifications such as organic or fair trade). Ten webinars spread over ten months during which participants will have the opportunity to share their priorities, difficulties, but also their experiences and good practices to build solutions together. The programme brings together private and public stakeholders from all levels of the cocoa chain, from bean producers to chocolate bar distributors. Six countries are participating in the programme: Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. While at the national level, the cocoa sector actors generally know each other, the programme encourages dialogue between countries and between continents. For example, during the launch webinar, Latin American countries asked the Ivorian participants to share their experience in terms of public-private partnerships in the management of their forests. While Côte d’Ivoire was interested in the Dominican Republic’s fair trade and “grand cru” cocoa production projects.
The programme is built around three main elements:
- The training of national ambassadors for sustainable cocoa, who will act as a link between decision-makers and the field. This first part, led by Alisos, is based on work on interpersonal skills and the sharing of knowledge between participants.
- Technical training, provided by Kinomé, on the design of agroforestry systems, the financing and promotion of sustainable cocoa projects, the development of cooperative projects and impact measurement.
- Workshops to export the models and solutions developed during the first two highlights of the programme. Discussions will be held with private and public, regional and international actors (such as North American or European exporters, or institutions such as the European Union).
At the end of the programme, a guide on agroforestry and sustainable cocoa will be produced by Kinomé. Enriched by the debates and exchanges of the programme, it aims to document and share good practices and levers for success. The participants will thus become creators of concrete solutions for the transformation of the cocoa sector in the six programme countries and beyond.
As the world’s largest cocoa producers, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are largely dependent on the export of cocoa beans. Yet cocoa production poses a real threat to local forests. In the West African region as a whole, the World Bank estimates that between 1988 and 2007, 2.3 million hectares of forest were cleared for cocoa production, with a significant impact on soil quality and bean harvests. This is a global issue that also affects the producer countries of South America. Transforming cocoa production and processing methods towards more sustainable, low-carbon and climate-resilient industries requires the commitment of all stakeholders in the value chain, both private and public. By financing the Cocoa & Forest Knowledge Exchange programme, the World Bank, through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), is supporting countries and actors that are already committed to forest conservation initiatives such as the IFC or REDD+ but do not have the tools to translate their commitment into action.
While the covid-19 pandemic could have limited knowledge exchange, the online Cocoa & Forest Knowledge Exchange programme is an opportunity to innovate. “If we can’t bring people to the field, we’ll bring the field to the people,” explains Yohann Fare, Head of Sustainable Channels at Kinomé. Images shot by teams in the field will become the basis for training and discussions. And the video-conferencing tools encourage an intercontinental dialogue on the global issue of sustainable cocoa.