The world's largest chocolate makers - including Nestle, Mars and Hershey - have reached agreement on a landmark initiative to roll back deforestation in the world's top cocoa producing countries - Ghana and Ivory Coast. The two countries are the world’s leading producers of cocoa, accounting for about 60 per cent of total production. Environmental group Mighty Earth claims cocoa farming has had devastating effects on the countries' forests.
Campaigning group Rainforest Rescue has raised 115,096 signatures for an online petition "Deforestation for chocolate? No thanks!" It claims "Illegal cocoa farms are eating away at protected forests in Ivory Coast and destroying the habitat of primates."
"There are parks in Ivory Coast with no forests and no primates, but a sea of cocoa plants," Ohio State University anthropologist W. Scott McGraw noted on the group's website.
All told, a dozen cocoa and chocolate companies agreed to "a statement of collective intent" committing them to work to end deforestation and forest degradation in the global cocoa supply chain, with an initial focus on the two west African nations.
The announcement came at the end of a meeting in London hosted by the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, who has been an outspoken critic of deforestation.
In a joint statement, the chocolate makers said, "The agreement... commits the participating companies to develop and present a joint public-private framework of action to address deforestation" at the UN climate change conference scheduled for November.
Prince Charles told a conference that "the most powerful direct reason for action is that deforestation threatens to undermine the very resilience of the cocoa sector itself, and with it the livelihoods of the millions of smallholders who depend on it".
"I am heartened that companies are undertaking to work up, in full collaboration with host governments and civil society, a joint framework of action to make good on the commitments announced today, in time for" the UN conference.
Looking to expand
The companies - which also include Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, Cargill, CEMOI, ECOM, Hershey, Mondelez, Olam and Touton - agreed to develop "an actionable suite of measures to end deforestation and forest degradation, including greater investments in more sustainable forms of landscape management," according to a statement put out by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), a trade group representing about 100 member companies, including all of the parties to today's agreement.
The WCF, which held the meeting with the Sustainable Trade Initiative and Charles' International Sustainability Unit, described the agreement as "the first collective industry commitment to specifically end deforestation and forest degradation covering the global cocoa supply chain".
"We look forward to more companies joining the effort and are grateful for the leadership provided by The Prince of Wales in convening today's landmark event," said WCF chairman Barry Parkin.
In addition to getting more companies to join the effort, advocates, like Prince Charles, want to spread the initiative beyond West Africa.
"While the focus has, understandably, been on Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the first instance, given their dominant role in the cocoa sector," Prince Charles, said, "this initiative is of clear future relevance to other cocoa markets in Sub Saharan Africa, South East Asia and Latin America."
bik/jm (AFP, WCF)