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FEATURE STORY December 19, 2017

Forest- and farmer-friendly cocoa in West Africa


Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo/World Bank.


  • Global cocoa production faces mounting environmental and economic challenges.
  • Despite long-term global demand, cocoa producers are confronting the triple challenge of increasing productivity on limited land, reducing pressure on forests and ecosystems, and increasing their resilience to climate change.
  • A new report aims to inform governments, companies, and civil society partners on ways to enhance sustainability and encourage smallholders to make deforestation-free, climate-smart choices. The focus is on actions that lead to scaling up renovation and rehabilitation (‘R&R’) efforts so farmers can grow more cocoa on less land.

Forest loss is perhaps the last thing families across the world think about when they give boxes of chocolate during the holiday season. But cocoa – the essential ingredient in chocolate and other consumer products – is in fact a leading driver of deforestation in cocoa-producing countries.

Although cocoa production continues to expand in Asia, Central and South America, two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply comes from Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana alone. Between 1988 and 2007, West Africa lost 2.3 million hectares of forest to cocoa cultivation, which has caused serious soil degradation, water insecurity and crop failures. Small farmers produce up to 90% of cocoa in these two countries. Yet, they face challenges of decreasing productivity, degraded land and old, pest-infected cocoa trees. All these factors undermine their livelihoods – and their ability to adopt new, forest-smart practices.

These stark realities in the cocoa sector are precisely why Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, along with more than 20 leading chocolate companies, came together last month to launch the groundbreaking Frameworks for Action for sustainable cocoa at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn. These frameworks lay out how Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana will work with the private sector and other stakeholders to accelerate investments in long-term sustainable production of cocoa, with an emphasis on “growing more cocoa on less land.”

The World Bank, together with the World Cocoa Foundation and Climate Focus, has released a new report to help guide the work of these governments and companies to operationalize the Frameworks for Action at the level of cocoa farmers. The report, entitled “Forest- and Climate -Smart Cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana: Aligning Stakeholders to Support Smallholders in Deforestation-Free Cocoa”, identifies eight priority actions that these governments and the private sector can take to shift cocoa production practices in West Africa toward sustainable management, and eliminate deforestation from the cocoa supply chain. 

“To accelerate the transition toward climate-smart cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, efforts need to be supported by a common vision between governments, companies, communities and CSOs,” says Charlotte Streck, Director of Climate Focus. She adds, “This report aims to inform policy makers, development partners, supply-chain companies, and responsible investors about the most pressing actions needed to help small cocoa farmers to achieve sustainable livelihoods, protect and restore forests, and mitigate and adapt to climate change.” 


Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo/World Bank.

The eight priority actions for the cocoa sector (below) build on each other and promote: collaboration between governments and supply-chain companies; the construction and delivery of integrated support packages for smallholders; and the mobilization and design of finance.

1.      Operationalize cocoa sector plans: The Frameworks for Action for Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana can be operationalized through practical company action plans and alignment with government policy.

2.      Agree on common operational principles and definitions: As a first step to align interests and interventions, a common set of operational definitions, principles, and guidelines is needed.

3.      Establish multi-stakeholder engagement and action platforms: Institutional partnerships are essential to coordinate smallholder support.

4.      Develop integrated smallholder support packages: Engagement and action platforms can help facilitate the programming of location-specific smallholder support packages.

5.      Develop a financing strategy: A financing strategy is needed to define the right funding vehicle, be it individual partnerships or a dedicated fund to rehabilitate cocoa trees, and secure commitments from funders.

6.      Deliver finance and support to smallholders: Companies and cooperatives with strong links to farmers are well positioned to initiate cocoa tree renovation and rehabilitation programs.

7.      Monitor impact and link to zero-deforestation agenda: Monitoring and evaluation systems are important tools for programs to grow stronger over time and to eliminate inefficiencies.

8.      Strengthen governance: Efforts to reduce deforestation in cocoa supply chains can be supported by clarifying and enforcing forest and land use rules.

The analysis and consultations conducted to develop these eight priority actions was supported by PROFOR in conjunction with the Cocoa & Forest Initiative, which is co-led by IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit and the World Cocoa Foundation. The report also builds on the publication, Eliminating Deforestation from the Cocoa Supply Chain, which was launched in May 2017 by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, together with the World Cocoa Foundation and Climate Focus. The May report makes the business case for moving toward deforestation-free cocoa production, and presents a first set of principles for achieving sustainable, climate-smart cocoa.