The International Cocoa Organization has issued a statement accepting cocoa’s role in deforestation.
The ICCO also pledged support for initiatives that aim to halt deforestation whilst highlighting the need for farmers and farmer livelihoods to be taken into account in any solutions.
Deforestation has become an important issue in the cocoa sector and among consumers in Europe, who were due to go to the polls in the European elections in late May 2019 as this issue was being written.
Responding to growing demands by politicians and from a growing number of organisations in the cocoa sector, in April 2019 the International Cocoa Council at the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) issued a communiqué about the issue.
The Council said it recognized that many ICCO exporting members have in place national programmes and policies aiming at fighting deforestation and favouring reforestation, but also recognized that the agricultural sector is a major driver of deforestation and that the impact of cocoa is significant in certain deforestation hotspots.
The Council acknowledged that deforestation is a global issue that needs a global solution and took note of the EU initiative on deforestation and forest degradation. But it also highlighted the fact that improvement in the revenues and the living conditions of cocoa farmers must be integrated into policies aimed at fighting deforestation.
The communiqué noted that cocoa can play a key role in the process of forest restoration, given that cocoa’s growth environment favours agroforestry systems and the presence of shade trees. It recommended setting up a platform enabling all relevant stakeholders within the world cocoa economy to join forces and scale up their common actions on the issue of deforestation.
The cocoa body further committed to encouraging ICCO member countries to enforcing policies and practices that ensure environmental protection, including anti- deforestation and reforestation measures, soil protection, and agroforestry systems.
The communiqué also encouraged the European Union to strengthen its policy dialogue and cooperation with commodity-exporting countries by developing tailored approaches, taking into consideration country-specific rural development challenges, such as forestry and rural land tenure legislations, and reminded the European Union that the cocoa ecosystem can play an important role in the reforestation of areas affected by agricultural activity.
The ICCO is also seeking to strengthen efforts to support financially and technically national policies and programmes aiming at fighting deforestation; and work towards the improvement of farmers’ living conditions and productivity, as an avenue to reducing poverty in rural communities in the medium term, which will contribute to the efforts to tackle deforestation.
The Council said it was also keen to encourage payments to producers for environmental services within the framework of the fight against deforestation and actions towards reforestation, and to work with bilateral and multilateral partners and its members in order to mobilise financing for the implementation of policies and actions to protect forests and their rehabilitation.