Here in Thailand, many city dwellers are closing up shop and moving out to the provinces where they have family and land.
The two weeks to flatten the curve lockdown over the last eighteen months has taken their toll and sucked the joy out of the Land of Smiles. But Thai’s are a resilient bunch and are reinventing themselves. We have a steady stream of ‘new locals’ seeking us out to discover more about craft chocolate making, growing cocoa and regenerating land using permaculture principles.
We are happy to share our successes and failures and help others heal the land, and build supportive communities both geographically close to home (in Trat province) and in the Thai cocoa space.
A few short years ago, I was ‘the only ferrang in the village’ (I still am!) and viewed somewhat as a novelty or an eccentric Englishman for my unorthodox tree planting ideas and creating a permaculture food forest. Nowadays, instead of being told ‘you’re doing that wrong’, instead of ‘what are you doing?’ I now get asked ‘why are you doing that?’ or ‘how can I do that?’. So I keep taking baby steps and lead by example.
Still, when you have lost your business and livelihood due to government-mandated lockdowns and travel bans, capital investment for a new venture can be hard to come by.
This article aims to explore current political, environmental and economic trends in the West that could benefit landowners and farmers in South East Asia (and other small scale farming communities worldwide who find themselves in a similar situation).
Let’s start with ESG
If you work for a Hedge Fund or corporate bank, you’ll know what an ESG is. An ESG is the Environmental, Social and Governance criteria also known as responsible investment and refers to the three central pillars in rating a company’s sustainability and ethical impact.
For example, a company with a poor ESG rating can be perceived as a bad bet and negatively impact its stock price.
Companies are obliged to understand and improve their ESG rating year on year to stay relevant and attract new investment.
“In the future, climate and ESG considerations will likely be at the heart of mainstream investing. Investors will tailor their investments and fulfil their fiduciary duties through better quality and more widely available data on sustainability and performance, and more informed judgements of strategic resilience.” – Mark Carney, Former Governor Bank of England.
What’s the ESG Connection to Cocoa Farmers?
In two words, ‘Carbon Offsets’.
A factory producing widgets in the West can’t switch over to solar or wind and continue to produce widgets the same numbers only on sunny or windy days. So the only viable option to keep the political class and investors happy is to purchase carbon offsets.
A simple model in Thailand would look something like the following:
- Land would be identified for regeneration or reforestation.
- Contracts are issued to ensure land and tree are managed for a specific duration of years.
- The farmer receives monies to purchase and plant trees (cocoa, teak, etc.)
- The trees grow and sequester more carbon from the air year-on-year.
- Carbon Offsets are paid annually to the farmers dependent on inspection and carbon sequestration.
A farmer can expect to receive between $1 to $15 to plant a tree.
Tree planting in the West comes with a premium price as often land has to be purchased too.
Landowners and farmers in developing countries would expect a lower price as arable land is cheaper and more abundant. However, on the plus side, trees tend to grow faster in hot developing countries like Thailand than in colder climates.
As the trees mature, they sequester ever-more carbon, possibly slowing the negative effects of climate change.
Currently, the average carbon offset is valued at USD 14 per ton. However, investment banking giant Goldman Sachs is betting these will rise to $100 before the end of this decade.
Using Greenbacks to Green the Planet
When Wall St. meets local farmers via carbon offsets, we can break the annual destructive slash and burn practices of farming that erodes the soil and creates poor air quality for millions of people every year across Asia.
We can design sustainable food forests that not only provide security and multiple income streams for the farmers and families that work on them but also lock carbon emissions from heavy industry thousands of miles away into the trees and soil.
Cocoa trees are one of many trees that could play an important part in this story. In addition to helping build upon the burgeoning Thai craft chocolate industry, create more jobs, make value-added products and lift subsistence farmers out of poverty.
Do you know of an agency looking to pay farmers to plant trees in Thailand and any organization that manages carbon offsets? If so, let us know in the comments below.
Written by Perry Stevens – Anarchy Chocolate – The Taste of Freedom.
If you would like to support Thai cocoa, visit our website https://anarchychocolate.com/.
For the rest of the world, visit our Etsy store here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AnarchyFarm