Cocoa Accountability Map launched to track forest depletion


Mighty Earth, in partnership with EcoCare Ghana has launched Ghana Cocoa Accountability Map to address forest loss caused by some farmers in the country as a result of expansion of farms.

According to Mighty Earth, forest loss in the country remains excessively high, despite pledges by government and the chocolate industry in 2017 and 2018 to reduce cocoa-driven carbon emissions and forest loss.

Latest figures show that 10,550 hectares of deforestation occurred this year within cocoa-growing regions, with 8,188 hectares of this clearance occurring within forest reserves. Much of this clearance has been purposely for cocoa plot expansion.

Mighty Earth worked with Radar for Detecting Deforestation (RADD) forest-alert data from 2019 [till now] to identify areas of recent land clearance across Ghana; which has lost more than 2.5 million hectares (Mha) (33.7 percent) of its forest since the early 1990s.

The open-source map for the Ghanaian cocoa industry consolidates data layers to provide greater transparency around deforestation linked to cocoa industry supply chains.  Senior Director for Africa at Mighty Earth, Dr. Julian Oram, said the aim is to end deforestation but it is necessary to also see to it that the plight of the farmers is taken into consideration. 

“It is 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 organisations to work together to end deforestation in supply chains and meet commitments for full traceability from farm gate to chocolate product,” he said.

The new interactive map highlights deforestation hotspots, including those within protected areas and forest reserves, and shows their proximity to Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) supplying major cocoa traders and chocolate companies.

Senior Advisor at Mighty Earth, Sam Mawutor, also stated that: “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. The grim reality is that 30 – 40 percent of cocoa is still untraceable.

Some chocolate companies are sitting on that information. Our map can be used to raise deforestation alerts and to hold big business accountable for bad practices. Locally we’re promoting the use of agroforestry approaches, which give value to standing trees and help diversify farmer livelihoods.”

Mighty Earth is training local cocoa farmer cooperatives and Ghana CSO Cocoa Platform members to use the map collaboratively to gain further insight into traceability at local level, beyond the LBC locations published by corporations.

A cocoa farmer from the Eastern Region, Evelyn Aziamati, also added that: “Protecting our livelihoods means addressing deforestation and being aware of what is happening in our local area. Tracking where the threats are can help us 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.”

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