Forests are still being lost at rates equal to the size of large cities, such as Seoul or Chicago, according to the environmental organisation, The Mighty Earth. A recently published report, investigated the progress made in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to reduce deforestation related to Cocoa production.
Since 2017 when the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) was created, environmental groups and governments have been working together to combat the ongoing issue of deforestation related to cocoa farming in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. While not all observers agree on the level of deforestation attributable to Cocoa farming, nobody is disputing that it is a problem.
For an explanation of what deforestation is, and to dive deeper into why it is such a difficult challenge to tackle, read our special report from 2021.
The two West African regions account for almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa production, but the expansion of cocoa-growing areas has led to the removal of forests at an alarming rate. It is estimated that between them, the nations have lost 80-90% of their forests in the past few decades, according to Mighty Earth.
The group conducted an analysis, which it based on information from “supply chain mapping, satellite data analysis, and on-the-ground field investigations”, and found that forests are still being lost at concerning rates.
The organisation’s investigation led to the release of their critical report, “Sweet Nothings: How the Chocolate Industry has Failed to Honour Promises to End Deforestation in Cocoa Supply Chains.”
The report’s title references a blueprint that was laid out in 2017, based on the Cocoa & Forests Initiative Framework for Action. The blueprint was signed by the two governments, as well as major chocolate manufacturers such as Mondalez and Nestlé. Despite these efforts, Mighty Earth’s analysis suggested that in Côte d’Ivoire, 74.9 square miles of forest have been lost since the publication of the plan, and in Ghana, this figure rises to a staggering 152.5 square miles.
It is evident that the initiative is “failing to deliver”, according to Obed Owusu-Addai of ECA Ghana. Moreover, the report claims that deforestation may actually be getting worse in these areas, when compared to previous years. In 2020, the average tree cover loss across Ghana was supposedly 150% higher than the average loss between 2011-2019. The initiative was not without challenge. However, Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Water and Forests estimates that 20-30% of all cocoa production in the country – approximately 2 million tonnes – was produced illegally, further damaging forested areas.
The CEO of Mighty Earth, Glenn Hurowitz had some stern words for chocolate companies, stating they;
Need to stop making empty promises and start working together with governments in the CFI to establish an open and effective joint deforestation monitoring mechanism this year.
It is not clear what is causing the initiative to fail, but a lack of resources is not seen to be one of the reasons. Souleymane Fofana, General Coordinator of the Ivorian Human Rights organisations (RAIDH), comments, “The cocoa industry has the same tools and far more resources than Mighty Earth to track and prevent deforestation, but limited willpower and lack of transparency and accountability continue to be the biggest roadblocks to progress.”
It should be noted that the terms forest and deforestation have many definitions, and therefore while it is difficult to extract the details of what is happening and who is responsible, it appears that the ambitions of the Cocoa Forest Initiative are unfortunately not being realised in the way many had hoped.