Earthworm Foundation is partnering with Nestlé, the Ministry of Waters and Forests (Ministère des Eaux et Forêts, MINEF) and the Côte d’Ivoire’s Forestry Agency (SODEFOR) to protect and restore the Cavally Forest Reserve, one of the country’s most precious forests.
In September last year, Nestlé announced its ambition to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “When it comes to all the commitments being made by companies on climate, biodiversity and forests, the real challenge is to put words into action,” says Earthworm Foundation’s CEO Bastien Sachet. “We are happy that Nestlé is walking the talk with an ambitious plan to protect and regenerate this key forest landscape of Cavally.”
The Cavally Forest Reserve is one of 234 classified forests in Côte d’Ivoire. Located in the Zagné area of the Cavally region in the west of the country, it covers an area of 67,593 hectares and is home to endangered species such as chimpanzees, forest elephants and pygmy hippopotamus.
Nestlé’s Cocoa Plan Manager, Darrell High, adds, “We are delighted to kick this project off with the government of Côte d’Ivoire and the technical expertise of Earthworm Foundation. Our contribution to the restoration and reforestation of the Cavally Forest is part of our commitment to make sure that no cocoa we buy is linked to deforestation and to our pledge to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. We believe that a sustainable production of cocoa that benefits local communities and the environment, which spurs economic development is possible. Collaboration with all key stakeholders will be key to achieve this vision, and this project is a first step in that direction.”
Over the next three years, we will work together to implement a plan to protect this important reserve. Forest restoration and supporting farmer livelihoods to be more resilient are very much at heart of this work. Working with farmers to understand how they might establish productive, well run farms, and identifying suitable land and alternative livelihoods for farmers, that protect and promote the interests of both the environment and the people who earn a living there, will be vital to the success of the project.
Côte d’Ivoire has lost forests rapidly over the last 60 years. In 1960, the country had 16 million hectares of forest, but that area shrunk to just 3.5 million hectares by 2015. It is estimated that 60% of this forest loss has been caused by smallholder agriculture, a large part linked to cocoa production as forests create the essential climate needed to grow cocoa. This in a country with around a million cocoa farmers who rely on the crop for a living.
In 2014 the Ivorian government committed to returning 20% of its territory to forest by 2030. As part of this work, SODEFOR began a partnership with STARLING(a satellite technology partnership between Earthworm Foundationand Airbus) to establish an accurate base map of the Cavally Forest Reserve. “Using accurate satellite data allowed us to identify forest degradation at the earliest stages and better target our interventions, which is key when looking after such a big area,” says Mamadou Sangaré, SODEFOR’s General Director. Since the Starling data was used deforestation in the reserve reduced by 83%.
“While we are excited about the increased efforts to protect and restore this critical forest, we realise that much more needs to be done. We see that precise spatial monitoring data together with a trust and value-creation approach with surrounding farming communities is the way to effective forest protection and restoration. And we believe that this approach can be adapted and applied to other Forest Reserves beyond just the Cavally Forest Reserve,” said Gerome Tokpa Head of West Africa, Earthworm Foundation.
Further stakeholders have an equally important role to play in forest regeneration and drive this plan of work. As Earthworm’s cocoa lead Renzo Verne explains, “We look forward to engaging rubber companies and brands, cocoa traders and processors, and any other stakeholder who is directly or indirectly connected to this ecosystem through its supply chain to join the effort to make a difference for the Ivorian forests. Working with other groups such as IDH, ICRAF, local organisations and institutions who are also active in the wider Cavally landscape and who share our vision of protecting this precious forest will be important to achieve success.”
“The Ivorian government has recently adopted a national policy for the protection, rehabilitation and extension of forests which gives pride of place to the private sector. This partnership will strengthen our commitment to fight against deforestation caused in part by cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire and to strengthen the resilience of communities and cocoa producers. I wish success in its implementation,” declared Alain Richard Donwahi, Minister of Water and Forests.
We look forward to sharing our learnings with the cocoa and chocolate industry as we implement this work over the next three years.