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News 26 sept. 2022

How Community Engagement is Driving Forest Protection in Ivory Coast

For decades, the story about forests coming from Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, has mainly been one of agricultural expansion and the loss of carbon rich forests.

In the 1960s, it had as much as 16 million hectares of forest. Today, it has a little under three million, with agricultural expansion accounting for 62 percent of deforestation.

Yet, the economy is reliant on agriculture, with cocoa production responsible for more than half the country’s exports, at a price of $6.2 billion.

But this trend of deforestation is being reversed in a key Ivorian forest area. What’s more, it has the potential to be scaled up throughout the country.

In 2021, with the support of local communities in Cavally Forest, Ivory Coast, 350,000 hectares of land was reforested.

This project is the result of collaboration between Earthworm Foundation, Nestlé, the Ivorian Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF) and the Ivorian Forest Development Agency (SODEFOR).

This work will be the subject of a forthcoming report drawing on the lessons learned and how they can be used to protect further forests.

As well as reforesting, the focus has been on reconciling the economic needs of local communities which are based on agriculture with the health of the environment, on which agricultural activities depend upon in the long run.

"We are convinced that the best way to protect the Cavally classified forest is to resolutely invite communities to take ownership of it and show that conservation could be a source of additional income for it," said Alain Richard Donwahi, Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests.

In 2021, agreements were signed with nine groups to reforest degraded areas, with a further six groups looking after the maintenance of reforestation efforts. Reforestation was done with the support of Earthworm Foundation and SODEFOR.

The communities were paid more than CFA 40,000,000 for this work, with some reinvesting funds in income-generating activities; which Earthworm Foundation have supported them with.

“Our vision is to create solutions that ensure farmers are the drivers and beneficiaries of the forest protection,” said Earthworm CEO Bastien Sachet. “It is essential that businesses co-create solutions with farmers and communities; and Ivory Coast has the opportunity to be the driving force on the subject.”

To this end, the Société de Développement des Forêts (SODEFOR) and Earthworm Foundation were appointed to identify and implement inclusive solutions to protect and restore forests, and build the resilience of rural communities to improve environmental quality.

One year after its launch, Earthworm Foundation, MINEF, Nestlé and SODEFOR are sharing initial results of this project.


Download the report below to learn more :

SOCFIN 2021 annual report

SOCFIN 2021 annual report

Reversing the Deforestation Curve

Agriculture accounts for 62% of deforestation.

As well as reforesting, the focus has been on reconciling the economic needs of local communities which are based on agriculture with the health of the environment, on which agricultural activities depend upon in the long run.

"We are convinced that the best way to protect the Cavally classified forest is to resolutely invite communities to take ownership of it and show that conservation could be a source of additional income for it," said Alain Richard Donwahi, Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests.

In 2021, agreements were signed with nine groups to reforest degraded areas, with a further six groups looking after the maintenance of reforestation efforts. Reforestation was done with the support of Earthworm Foundation and SODEFOR.

The communities were paid more than CFA 40,000,000 for this work, with some reinvesting funds in income-generating activities; which Earthworm Foundation have supported them with.

“Our vision is to create solutions that ensure farmers are the drivers and beneficiaries of the forest protection,” said Earthworm CEO Bastien Sachet. “It is essential that businesses co-create solutions with farmers and communities; and Ivory Coast has the opportunity to be the driving force on the subject.”

In 2021, agreements were signed with nine groups to reforest degraded areas, with a further six groups looking after the maintenance of reforestation efforts. Reforestation was done with the support of Earthworm Foundation and SODEFOR.

The communities were paid more than CFA 40,000,000 for this work, with some reinvesting funds in income-generating activities; which Earthworm Foundation have supported them with.

These are generally identified through an integrated HCV-HCS Approach. This is a methodology that identifies important forest remnants for conservation and severely degraded areas for rehabilitation based on criteria such as plant and animal species, ecosystem services, culture, habitats, community needs, etc.

The HCV-HCS Approach is coupled with the use of Starling, a high-resolution (1.5 m) satellite monitoring technology that can detect deforestation. Protection and rehabilitation activities involve rural communities and all the other stakeholders.

Involving Rural Communities in Forest Conservation

“Our vision is to create solutions that ensure farmers are the drivers and beneficiaries of the forest protection,” said Earthworm CEO Bastien Sachet. “It is essential that businesses co-create solutions with farmers and communities; and Ivory Coast has the opportunity to be the driving force on the subject.”

“We are convinced that the best way to protect the Cavally Forest is to involve communities in taking ownership and show that conservation can be a source of additional income,” said Laurent Tchagba, Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests.

Community involvement is an important gateway to real forest protection. This means involving communities at every key stage of the project.

Over 2021, two women's groups – involving 34 people – set up nurseries of local tree species to provide seedlings for reforestation. Also, agreements were signed with 9 village groups to reforest degraded forests, while 6 village groups agreed to maintain the seedlings; which involves 200 people.

With support from the SODEFOR and Earthworm Foundation, these groups have reforested 366 hectares of forest. For these activities – nurseries, reforestation and maintenance of seedlings – the various village groups were paid more than 20,000,000 CFA Francs, part of which was reinvested in various income-generating activities.

“These initiatives are in line with our commitment to sustainable cocoa farming and prosperous communities. We will continue to work with the government of Côte d'Ivoire and our partners to help protect and restore forest reserves and improve the quality of life of communities,” said Nestlé's Managing Director in Côte d'Ivoire, Thomas Caso.

“These initiatives are in line with our commitment to sustainable cocoa farming and prosperous communities. We will continue to work with the government of Côte d'Ivoire and our partners to help protect and restore forest reserves and improve the quality of life of communities,” said Nestlé's Managing Director in Côte d'Ivoire, Thomas Caso.

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About Nestlé

Nestlé strongly believes that forests are essential to preserving biodiversity and combating climate change. Nestlé is committed to achieving its goal of zero net emissions by 2050 and to having 100 percent deforestation-free supply chains for all its raw materials by 2025. Read more about Nestlé's initiatives here.

About Earthworm Foundation

Earthworm Foundation is an impact-driven non-profit that works with businesses, civil society, communities, governments and others to tackle environmental and social issues in sourcing landscapes and supply chains. To learn more, visit www.earthworm.org.

About Starling Forest Monitoring Technology

Implemented since 2018 in Côte d'Ivoire as part of the protection and rehabilitation of the Cavally classified forest, Starling was launched by Airbus and Earthworm Foundation. It combines high-resolution optical imagery (SPOT 6 and 7 at 1.5 m resolution on the ground) and radar imagery (TERRA-SAR X).

This enables unbiased monitoring of forest cover change. Thanks to Starling, a reference map of the Cavally classified forest was established in 2018. This map distinguishes between degraded and intact areas. Starling also provides quarterly alerts that allow SODEFOR agents to better target patrol intervention zones. The evolutionary curve of deforestation alerts shows that the rate of deforestation has decreased from 6 percent in January 2018 to 0.5 percent in December 2021.

Media contacts

Mame Pane Sakho; +225 05858 26641; mamepane.sakho@ci.nestle.com

Emmanuel Dabo; +225 07781 39727; e.dabo@earthworm.org

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