Chocolate could be less available in 15 years according to global non-profit Earthworm Foundation. The snack also risks being associated with the loss of several species of mammals and apes.
Chocolate's main ingredient cocoa needs cultivating in the shade of forest and other crops, or else it is highly prone to pests, disease and poor yields. But Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, has been losing forests at a rate that would see none left standing by 2034 if nothing is done. This forest loss would put future cocoa production under serious threat. At present the country is responsible for 40 percent of global supply which is worth $5 billion in exports.
Earthworm Foundation has used satellites to map Ivorian forest cover in partnership with SODEFOR, the Ivorian government's forestry agency. The results are sobering, with around 200 to 500 hectares of the country's last intact reserve (Cavally forest) being lost per month. One of the causes of this forest loss is cocoa farmers encroaching on and clearing forests as they look for fertile soil. West Africa is a hotbed of cocoa production, but other countries in the region have similar deforestation problems. Ghana is the world's second biggest cocoa producer, yet it has some of the highest cocoa led deforestation rates in Africa, which have been described by activists Mighty Earth as devastating.
Ivorian government signed the Paris Climate agreement committing to restore 20 percent of the country's land to forest by 2030. But Earthworm Foundation CEO Bastien Sachet says they need support from chocolate manufacturers, traders and processors because it's not just forests at risk. "Cavally Forest Reserve is home to some of the last pygmy hippos and chimpanzees," said Sachet. "Losing that forest means losing all its biodiversity forever."
In 2017, 12 of the world's leading chocolate companies formed a coalition, the Cocoa Forest Initiative, committing to end deforestation in Ivory Coast and Ghana. The partnership is ambitious and brings the right partners around the table. But Earthworm Foundation want to see them do more. "We need concrete examples – at regional level – in Ivory Coast that demonstrate deforestation can be halted," said Sachet. "We are doing this by involving communities and cocoa farmers to create a new collaboration on the ground – these examples will show that change is possible."