USAID Supports Cocoa Industry’s Efforts to Mitigate Climate Risk

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November 4, 2022 (BANGKOK) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia and the Cocoa Association of Asia (CCA) convened a webinar on November 2, 2022 with close to 150 industry representatives working along the cocoa value chain to discuss strategies to mitigate climate risk and build resilience in the cocoa industry. The event featured businesses receiving advisory and technical assistance from USAID Green Invest Asia to improve their  sustainable sourcing  practices, including Puratos Grand Place and Mondelez International.

From 1988 to 2008, global forest loss from cocoa production was an estimated  2 to 3 million hectares, which is nearly 1 percent of total forest loss. While  global production of cocoa beans increased by 32 percent from 2000 to 2014,  the land-use footprint of cocoa plantations grew by 37 percent worldwide. With  demand for cocoa expected to continue growing, and competition for cultivable land also increasing, the cocoa sector has grappled with scaling production sustainably in a changing climate, so that communities, workers and the earth all benefit.

Roopa Karia, Deputy Director of the Regional Environment Office at USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia,  based in Bangkok, underscored the importance of climate risk mitigation to communities in cocoa-producing regions. “It is through trade associations like the Cocoa Association of Asia that we reach the scale and arc of change needed to meet global climate commitments in ways that also result in measurable benefits to smallholders. Smallholders, and the communities surrounding the cocoa plantations from which you source, are on the front lines of climate change, and they are the ones that stand to benefit the most from a sustainable, resilient, and traceable cocoa supply chain.”

Economics of sustainability

“At the end of the day, it is farming communities and local government that will take charge of the future of  their own homes and their landscapes,” said Fay Fay Choo, Asia Cocoa Director for both Mars, Inc and Cocoa Association of Asia, noting the importance to agree with local  communities on a framework and indicators that strike a balance between conservation and cultivation, as well as involving farmers to be part of the solution. “Poverty is at the heart of deforestation… and there’s no one silver bullet but rather a package of interventions that includes productivity, diversification, and incentivizing farmers to have more sustainable practices.”

Selene Scotton, Regional Cocoa Manager in Asia for Puratos Grand Place, emphasized the importance of learning what works for farmers, practicing an ecosystem approach, and companies proving to producers how sustainability can be profitable. Puratos has launched a product called “60 days” where chocolate production from farm to factory takes a quick 60 days, enhancing flavor of the chocolate, which allows the company sell it at premium and pay farmers more. Puratos Grand Place collaborated with USAID Green Invest Asia to calculate the carbon footprint of its supply chain in the region. Thanks to this baseline survey, Puratos Grand Place achieved company carbon neutrality in 2021. Puratos Group pledges to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Clare Stirling, Principal Scientist of Sustainable Cocoa Agriculture for Mondelez International said Mondelez is involved in research and development (R&D) trials on integrated soil fertility management to develop cocoa-specific recommendations to optimize use of both organic and chemical nutrient inputs. “Given the uncertainties of  climate change, we need to increase yields of cocoa to increase living incomes and to address poverty.” As demand grows for cocoa, but cultivable land doesn’t, farmers will need to increase yields on soils that are often degraded due to a history of low inputs and soil mining. Where possible, companies should work to help farmers access finances and inputs so farmers can use chemical fertilizers judiciously, she said.

Indonesia, one of the world’s top cocoa producers, lost roughly 700,000 hectares of forest from cocoa production between 1988 and 2007. Despite growing global demand, production has declined in Indonesia due to deforestation,  a decrease in available and cultivable land, and widespread poverty in producer communities.  Barry Flaming, USAID Green Invest Asia’s Senior Forestry Advisor discussed farm-level strategies to mitigate environmental risks, including the introduction of drought and disease-tolerant cocoa varieties,  following  a cocoa agroforestry model rather than exclusive cocoa planting, and using regenerative agriculture to improve soil health, nutrient levels, and fertilizer management.  Beyond the farm, some companies are looking for opportunities to engage in the wider landscape through restoration and conservation activities to prevent wider deforestation.

Off-farm answers to on-farm challenges

All speakers called for increased collaboration on landscape approaches that integrate policy and practice for multiple land uses, within a given area, to ensure equitable, sustainable land use while strengthening measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change. “Climate resilience will come from beyond the farm and will involve partnerships beyond the [cocoa] sector,” said Stirling from Mondelez, which has worked with USAID Green Invest Asia to assess different agroforestry systems in Sulawesi, Indonesia to learn the most sustainable options to recommend to its producers.

“We all have a lot of questions that don’t have answers, and the only way forward is to collectively figure it out,” said Choo.

Presentations are available here, and the event recording here. For more information, please contact [email protected].


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