Deforestation rates on the rise in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where to go from here

The recent news showing increased deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana is a very clear call for action. The Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) and its stakeholders have made great progress, and we need to move faster.

Since its launch in December 2017, the CFI has set up -amongst others- an enabling environment, supportive structures and delivered action plans from companies and governments. The entire cocoa supply chain has moved out of its comfort zone, with the realization that business will not go on as usual. We only have a short window of opportunity to protect the remaining forests and we can’t afford to wait any longer. We have agreement on the priorities, the approach and the plan. So, let us now all accelerate the implementation and deliver real benefits to farmers while safeguarding the last standing forests in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. You can read more about CFI here.

Call for action

Increased forest protection through partnerships and aligned investments

To effectively protect forests, enforcement capacity needs to go up and alternative income models need to be created for communities and farmers dependent on forests. This requires resources and political support but the main thing is that it requires partnership between governments, communities, companies, and bilateral partners.

These are exactly the type of supportive relationships we aim to create. Through additional investments into government plans, extra forest guards can be hired, monitoring systems can be built, and further deforestation prevented. The same additional investments are needed in farming systems, to increase and diversify incomes of farmers – offering an attractive and alternative pathway to development. Combined with no sourcing commitments from forests, a balance is created between protection of forests, sustainable production and better incomes for farmers and communities.

Combining investments from governments, companies, NGOs and bilateral partners in the priority regions identified in the CFI Implementation Plans in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana will help kick-start the delivery on the CFI targets. We need to create real partnerships in these priority regions, to protect the remaining forests as outlined above, with each partner taking their responsibility, complementing and strengthening one another in terms of knowledge, tools and role. By adopting a landscape approach and co-designing land management plans, the forest core zone can be protected, the border zone restored and in the surrounding agricultural zone, intensification and diversification can be applied.

This won’t be a short-term investment and commitment, as it requires ‘finding’ each other in these landscape-level partnerships, testing new approaches and facing systemic change issues that are hard to solve. We all have learned in other sectors, like palm oil and soy, that only by adopting a landscape approach and working in true public-private partnership, we can develop the needed solutions.

IDH will continue to play its role, to facilitate relationship building between companies, communities and governments, as well as to support pilot approaches in the CFI priority regions in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Learning from a successful pilot in tea

We have seen some great success in landscape coalitions than can serve as inspiration. In the South West Mau forest in Kenya, for example, a livestock intensification pilot is being co-funded by tea companies Unilever and Finlays, to stop deforestation occurring due to overgrazing. Forest microclimate creates ideal conditions for cultivating crops, such as tea, but recently more than 25% of the forest in the region has been degraded by livestock grazing, putting tea and community livelihoods at risk. By training, mentoring and coaching communities to adopt improved livestock grazing practices, the program has been able to improve community livelihoods and reduce forest degradation. Early pilot results from 2018 show milk production went up from 4.7 to 6.6 liters per cow per day, prices went up from KSH25 to KSH30 per liter, and cattle grazing in the forest went down from two to one cow per farmer. In this success story, the initial steps were slow as they were about alignment. An illustration that success requires people take on roles that they never took on before, before impact can materialize on the ground.

Week of Action

In June, at the Week of Action to drive forest protection through sustainable agriculture and social inclusion, we invite over 300 companies and governments to join and address the state of sustainable production and market uptake in the palm oil, soy, tropical timber and cocoa sectors. This is an opportunity for companies, NGOs and governments to take further action and build synergies. We hope to see you there. Deforestation free and sustainable commodity production with real benefits to farmers are possible, let’s race to the top together!