Over 5 million smallholder farmers produce 90% of the world's cocoa.
Millions of tonnes of cocoa beans are consumed annually to feed our global appetite for chocolates, pastries and other desserts. Ivory Coast and Ghana are the engine room of global cocoa supply chains, producing more than half of the world's cocoa that goes primarily to Western Europe, the United States, and Australasia. The chocolate industry contributes to the livelihoods of millions of farmers worldwide and supports other agricultural commodities such as sugar, dairy products, nuts and fruits.
But increasing demand met by expansion into protected environmental areas has threatened ecosystems and fueled complicated social issues such as child labour, and the majority of cocoa farmers in top-producing countries continue to live in poverty. Pockets of over-supply have led to volatile global market prices, the risks of which are borne heavily by small farmers. Low prices and productivity make it more likely that farmers open more land to sustain themselves and rely on their children to support production. Ageing crops and weather changes, as well as excessive chemical use, soil degradation and disease linked to monoculture, account for 30% of crop losses affecting farmers' income. An ageing population of farmers puts further strain on the supply chain.
Since 2013, we have worked in cocoa supply chains across Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and the Dominican Republic.
We have partnered with governments and businesses, such as Lindt & Sprüngli, pladis, Godiva, organisations such as Fair Trade International and other stakeholders. Our work with the private sector has involved developing and implementing responsible sourcing policies and No Deforestation, Peat and Exploitation (NDPE) policies for cocoa.
We also work with companies to engage plantations and to conduct High Carbon Stock (HCS) forest mapping, agronomic support for soil and tree cover restoration, and piloting Starling satellite monitoring tool (co-developed by Earthworm Foundation and Airbus) to monitor cocoa-related deforestation in West Africa. On the ground, we have driven innovation among small farmers – from developing holistic farm plans, conducting livelihood assessments, partnering on diversification initiatives, establishing dynamic agroforestry systems, strengthening farmer organisations, and creating links to traders and wholesale buyers.
Our Landscape programs, such as in Cavally, Soubre in Cote d'Ivoire and the Longitudinal Landscape in Peru, utilise a holistic approach to address socio-economic and environmental challenges in cocoa origins. Collaborating with people along the value chain – from producers, companies and customers to NGOs, researchers and academics – we also led implementing an innovative agroforestry project in the Dominican Republic called The Cacao Forest Project.
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