Mighty Earth, a global advocacy organisation, in collaboration with EcoCare, has introduced a new Cocoa Accountability Map for Ghana to track cocoa-driven deforestation.
Dr Julian Oram, Senior Director for Africa at Mighty Earth, said that the forest loss in the country remained stubbornly high, despite pledges by the government and the chocolate industry to reduce cocoa-driven carbon emissions and forest loss.
The new interactive map highlighted deforestation hotspots, including those within protected areas and forest reserves, and showed their proximity to Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) supplying major cocoa traders and chocolate companies.
She said the latest figures showed 10,550 hectares of deforestation this year within cocoa-growing regions, with 8,188 hectares of this clearance occurring within forest reserves.
“It is likely that much of this clearance has been for cocoa plot expansion,” she said.
Dr Oram said it was possible to prevent cocoa from deforested areas ending up in chocolate products, but two things need to happen.
Firstly, small scale farmers, which are the bedrock of the industry, need to be properly remunerated, creating a disincentive to farm in forest reserves, or protected areas.
Secondly, “we need effective monitoring, which is where our Ghana Cocoa Accountability Map comes in. Our aim is for farmers, cocoa companies, NGOs, and governmental organizations to work together to end deforestation in supply chains and meet commitments for full traceability from farm gate to chocolate product.”
The open-source map for the Ghanaian cocoa industry consolidates data layers to provide greater transparency around deforestation linked to cocoa industry supply chains.
Mr Sam Mawutor, Senior Advisor, Ghana at Mighty Earth, said, “The cocoa beans’ journey from farm to the first point of purchase is still the hardest to track and this is where beans from deforested areas can be mixed with those grown on legally cultivated land.”
He said the grim reality was that 30 to 40 per cent of cocoa was still untraceable.
The Senior Advisor said some chocolate companies were sitting on that information.
“Our map can be used to raise deforestation alerts and to hold big business accountable for bad practices,” he added.
He said locally they were promoting the use of agroforestry approaches, which gave value to standing trees and helping diversify farmer livelihoods.
Mr Mawutor said the initiative provided visibility to cocoa cooperatives, with data released by Whittaker, Barry Callebaut, Olam, Blommer, Ecom, Ferrero, Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Tony’s Chocolonely.
He said Mighty Earth has been working with Radar for Detecting Deforestation (RADD) forest-alert data from 2019 onwards to identify areas of recent land clearance across Ghana, which has lost more than 2.5 million hectares (Mha) (33.7 per cent) of its forest since the early 1990s.
“Mighty Earth is training local cocoa farmer cooperatives and CSO on Cocoa Platform members to use the map collaboratively to gain further insight into traceability at local level, beyond the LBC locations published by
corporations,” he said.
Madam Evelyn Aziamati, a cocoa farmer from Adjoobo Okrase in Eastern Region, said: “Protecting our livelihoods means addressing deforestation and being aware of what is happening in our local area.”
She said tracking where the threats are could help them to raise the alarm before one hectare of deforestation becomes ten.
“Keeping our farms going and being able to provide for our families, means growing cocoa sustainably and using standing forests to support our work,” she added.