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Tackling deforestation

Deforestation in cocoa is an ongoing issue as farmers seek land to increase their crop. As a founding member of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, Olam is committed to halting deforestation in our supply chains globally. We are working to achieve this through farmer programmes in our direct sourcing, and through the Olam Supplier Code and industry partnerships in our indirect supply chains.

In our direct sourcing, our goal is for 100% volumes to be traceable and sustainable by 2020. Our Climate-Smart Cocoa programmes with Rainforest Alliance in Ghana and Indonesia are showing significant results in tackling deforestation, the learnings from which we are transferring to other programmes around the world under the Olam Livelihood Charter. However, change cannot happen overnight.

Deforestation by cocoa farmers is a direct result of entrenched poverty, which Olam and many of our peers, customers and NGO partners, have been tackling for several years. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana the Governments set the price of cocoa but farm yields are low. In these emerging markets, cocoa farmers often lack education and resources, unaware of techniques to maintain soil fertility, and unable to afford fertilisers. The solution for many is to farm on fertile forest soils. Incentives to farmers to take up the new practices are proving critical.

Our primary actions have been around encouraging farmers to plant more forest and shade trees to help create cooler microclimates in the face of rising temperatures, although farmers still see them as competing with the cocoa.

In Côte d’Ivoire, we have also recently scaled up our recommendations to farmers on the planting of trees – in partnership with GIZ, we are recommending 100 forestry and 50 shade trees per hectare. Additionally, Olam has been working progressively with its producers towards restoration of zones adjacent to aquatic ecosystems; restoration of farmed areas of marginal productivity to natural ecosystem; and incorporation of native trees as border plantings and barriers around housing and infrastructure, and permanent cocoa agroforestry systems. This means that we are planting more trees in our supply base and building more resilience of our communities to be climate ready. In 2016, OLC co-operatives planted 193,000 leguminous shade trees covering 1.9 million high quality cocoa seedlings.

Further to our own activities, we are working pre-competitively with industry partners to tackle deforestation. In March 2017, along with 11 leading cocoa and chocolate companies, we signed the Statement of Intent to the Cocoa & Forests Initiative committing to working together, in partnership with other organisations, to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain, with an initial focus on Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

For additional information about how we are working with the industry on the Cocoa & Forests Initiative to tackle deforestation, learn more on the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) site here.