One of the main goals of the Beyond Chocolate Initiative is to put an end to cocoa related deforestation. To reach this ambitious goal, Beyond Chocolate can count on expert stakeholders who advise the partnership on valuable approaches. One of these stakeholders in the Belgian NGO BOS+. In light of the International Day of Forests, Beyond Chocolate talked to BOS+ Program Coordinator Pieter Van de Sype on the work the organization is doing to stop further deforestation and natural habitat loss.
What is BOS+ and what motivated you to become part of this organization?
BOS+ is a Belgian NGO that strives for more and more resilient forests, jointly with and to the benefit of people, in temperate forests in Belgium and tropical forests in Latin America and Africa. Through capacity building, development of best practices and awareness raising, jointly with the local partners, we aspire a triple win between climate targets, biodiversity and wellbeing.
Jointly with partners, we aspire a triple win between climate targets, biodiversity, and wellbeing.
What originally motivated me to become part of BOS+ was a combination of two factors. Firstly, there is the relevance of trees and forests, and in particular the potential they possess to simultaneously address multiple of the challenges our global society is facing. Secondly, I was drawn to the dynamic and innovative character of the organisation. Working for BOS+, another motivating factor has become the team’s level of creativity, dedication and commitment to quality and impact.
What are the major drivers of deforestation?
A major share of global deforestation is commodity driven. It is directly connected to our consumption of meat, dairy, palm oil, coffee and… chocolate. Belgian and European consumption of these products translates into imported deforestation. An alarming share of forest is already lost and deforestation is raging on. This in combination with the crucial role forests play, calls for urgent action. We need to step up our ambitions now. This might be easier said than done, but it is too important not to do so. The consequences of crossing planetary boundaries are not to be considered lightly.
A major share of global deforestation is commodity driven. It is directly connected to our consumption of meat, dairy, palm oil, coffee and… chocolate.
Where does BOS+ position the farmer in its mission to halt deforestation?
BOS+ is driven both by the environmental, as well as the social component. The people that live around the forests are central to the mission of BOS+: their wellbeing, how to strengthen them, give them better chances and tools to provide for their families in harmony with their surrounding ecosystems. They are the first to feel the consequences of the loss of ecosystem services caused by deforestation and forest degradation. Whether this is a leading member of an indigenous community in the Amazon whose life is threatened by land grabbers, or a farming family in Ghana that wants to increase their income by producing more and better cocoa.
The people that live around the forests are central to the mission of BOS+: their wellbeing, how to strengthen them, give them better chances and tools to provide for their families, and all of this in harmony with their surrounding ecosystems.
What does BOS+ identify as valuable approaches to addressing deforestation?
In general, systemic, integrated and holistic approaches are needed: adopting landscape approaches, working across the whole spectrum of the value chain, strengthening governance frameworks,… Specifically, what we see as key components with a leveraging potential are:
- Transforming the value chains of commodities causing deforestation
- Jointly building the necessary supporting frameworks (for monitoring, traceability, governance)
- Holding Private sector actors to ambitious commitments – i.e. an important role for social entrepreneurship
- Working together with people: the indigenous communities that protect invaluable primary forests and the farmers that can integrate native tree species in farming systems that produce higher quality cocoa.
In general, holistic approaches are needed. Transforming the value chains of commodities causing deforestation can have a huge potential.
BOS+ is trying to lower pressure on tropical forests in Latin America and Africa by supporting civil society organisations and local communities in protecting, sustainably managing, and restoring forests, as well as sustainable agricultural production in agroforestry systems. In Ecuador and Peru, BOS+ is actively involved in the cocoa sector, supporting deforestation-free cocoa production in the buffer zone of protected areas by indigenous communities. Lastly, BOS+ aims to raise awareness and encourage young people to reflect on the importance of forests worldwide and the role they can play.
What is the role of traceability in all of this?
Traceability is an important series of threads in a tapestry of many interconnected processes necessary to ensure deforestation is halted and reversed. Consumers are aware of the problem, but need better access to correct information to help them make the right choices. Traceability contributes in a very important way to making this info more accessible. The information that becomes available through traceability also makes for a better understanding of the dynamics, which allows for more strategic decision-making by different actors on where to prioritize efforts.
What importance do multi-stakeholder initiatives such as Beyond Chocolate have in addressing the deforestation challenge?
Multi-stakeholder partnerships are part of the integrated approach needed to address problems as complex as deforestation, involving many relevant stakeholders. There is a large inherent potential, as developing effective solutions for one commodity within such a partnership can be replicated to other ones. But it is a precondition, not a guarantee. It also depends on the level of commitment of the individual participating actors.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships are part of the integrated approach needed to address problems as complex as deforestation, involving many relevant stakeholders.
BOS+ is contributing to Beyond Chocolate with expertise from our interventions in tropical forests. We also try to represent the voices of our partners and beneficiaries of our projects, those working on the frontlines of deforestation as well as the ones making efforts in producing cocoa sustainably. We are solution oriented and maintain a constructive attitude towards other sectors, but always hold true to our commitment.
What do you hope to see from Beyond Chocolate in the future?
I want to see Beyond Chocolate hold true to its commitments and step-up action. I want to see partners jointly ending Belgian cocoa related deforestation and forest degradation, in synergy with improving conditions for the producing farmers.
Beyond Chocolate has the chance to show that this kind of partnership can work and deliver real results. That we can meet and even go beyond the targets.
Beyond Chocolate has the chance to show that this kind of partnership can work and deliver real results. That we can meet and even go beyond the targets; On the long term, we hope Beyond Chocolate will facilitate the fast-paced upscaling and replication of successful projects in pilot landscapes to cover not a small percentage but as many cocoa-producing landscapes as possible. We hope the initiative can link up with efforts by other countries – in particular EU-ambitions in the framework of the Green Deal – and can thus contribute to ending deforestation overall.