Project July 17, 2023

Can We Produce Cocoa Without Deforesting?


There was a 28% increase in Ivory Coast’s primary rainforest loss in 2018 compared to 2017. The main driver of this deforestation comes from cocoa production. The country is the top producer of the sweet, for which demand keeps increasing. Many of Ivory Coast’s national parks and protected areas have been entirely or almost entirely cleared of forest and replaced with cocoa-growing operations.

Around 40% of Ivorian cocoa comes from protected areas, and 57% of cocoa plantations come from primary forest, due to a lack of enforcement and corruption within the Ivorian government. Entire illegal towns and villages have sprung up inside Ivory Coast’s national parks and protected forests.

The method farmers use exhausts soil nutrients and perpetuates low yields. When farmers face poverty due to low prices, they increase their production and thus deforest, twice as fast in protected areas. Big chocolate brands like Ferrero Rocher, Mars and Cadbury buy from traders like Cargill who have been found to source up to 40% of Ivory Coast cocoa from inside national parks and protected areas.

But best practices exist and could be encouraged. Indeed, shade-grown systems, instead of the current full-sun method, can actually have higher average productivity over the full life cycle of a cocoa tree. Full-sun cocoa prevents the growth of other species and creates a biodiversity wasteland.