High-Level Meeting of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative in Utrecht

Discussions focused on current actions and upcoming priorities, next steps in Colombia, relevance of the initiative in Liberia and Cameroon and actions needed to move thematic working groups forward. 76 participants attended the meeting, with representatives from government, private sector, civil society organizations, donors, multilateral organizations and NGOs.

The High-Level Meeting was the opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on progress achieved by the Initiative since the last High-Level Meeting in Bonn (Nov 2017), and to discuss priorities and foreseen challenges as the Initiative moves from commitments to implementation. The meeting was also an opportunity for delegates to agree on how to facilitate cross-country and cross-sector learning and collaboration moving forward.

Specific discussions included:

Current company actions and upcoming priorities

Signatory companies highlighted the range of actions already undertaken in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, such as the application of the commitment not to source from national parks, the mapping of farms using farm polygons, the development of agroforestry models or measures to support productivity, including ongoing research on new cocoa genetics.

However, they also mentioned a number of challenges still to be addressed, such as alignment on the agroforestry schemes to promote, the need to engage with communities, in particular to raise awareness on forest boundaries, as well as the absolute necessity to mitigate the social impacts of possible resettlement of illegal farmers. Company high-level representatives agreed that these are all topics where further alignment and collaboration are needed.

Focus on next steps in Colombia

In Colombia, CFI operates in a different context: cocoa has been identified as one of the key alternatives to illegal crops, which the new government is committed to promoting under the peace agreement signed in 2016. To date, cocoa has not been a significant driver of deforestation in Colombia, and launch of the Cocoa, Forests and Peace Joint Framework for Action intends to ensure that this continues.

As a next step, a governance structure needs to be formed. A key question to address will also be whether the world market will be able to absorb and acknowledge the deforestation-free cocoa from Colombia.

Remarks from Liberia and Cameroon Government representatives

High-Level representatives from Cameroon and Liberia Governments were invited to make observations on CFI. They mentioned the relevance of such a process for their respective countries.

In Liberia, cocoa farms that had been abandoned during the civil war are now starting to be rehabilitated. However, the current agricultural model tends to be based on slash and burn, which is a critical risk to the country’s forests. The Liberian Government sees CFI as one that has the great potential of helping develop economic opportunities in Liberia, while contributing to forest protection, and clearly stated its interest in joining CFI.

In Cameroon, the Government plans to increase cocoa production and get out of the “low investment, low yields, poverty, ageing farmers” cycle.  Similarly, to Liberia, this development shouldn’t happen at the expense of the forests. As IDH and core group of companies launched the “Green Cocoa Landscapes Program” in Cameroon in September, there is a clear opportunity to also engage in developing a joint Framework for Action that can help give those guarantees.

Thematic Working Groups

Monitoring 

Several examples of monitoring systems per presented: including the Mato Grosso’s Produce Conserve Include system which monitors a wide range of indicators, the Colombian IDEAM forest monitoring system, or WRI’s Global Forest Watch, that helps track forest cover.

Meeting delegates confirmed the need for the creation of a system that can help to track progress, and in particular to monitor deforestation. Innovative techniques such as “machine learning” were mentioned as great ways to improve existing forest monitoring systems. The need to align with monitoring systems from different sectors and commodities was also emphasized.

Financing

A pilot project on Payment for Environmental Services developed in the Nawa region in Côte d’Ivoire was presented. This scheme provides incentives to farmers for agroforestry, reforestation and conservation schemes. Highlighted in ther presentation was the cost of bringing such a scheme at scale, raising the question of the potential for green finance and carbon techniques.

Responding to the call for additional support, IDH committed to providing seed funding to the joint monitoring system, calling for additional stakeholders in the room to contribute in co-funding the different building blocks of the implementation plan.

The German Government representative confirmed the government’s support to CFI, which is considered as a very good example of public–private partnership.  He mentioned that increased donor funding should go to this initiative, in particular to cover bigger goals such as policy and infrastructure level changes. He recommended for donors to support structural transformation of rural areas, including rural infrastructures and the creation of an enabling environment to implement such a challenging initiative. Donors could play a catalytic role in this Initiative to mobilize further funds. While donor funds are traditionally linked to partner countries, broader mechanism to cover supraregional and global activities have to be identified. In particular, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and EU Commission should join forces and increase coherence in policy dialogue with cocoa producing countries. The Amsterdam Declaration member countries could play an important role here as well.

The Dutch government confirmed its support to CFI.

TFA2020 pledged for more coordination and alignment, offering to support by continuing the work on finance mechanisms, and in particular the different categories of finance available (e.g. commercial finance, blended finance etc).

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