NAIROBI (Landscape News) – Once known as West Africa’s biodiversity hotspot, today Côte d’Ivoire has lost 13.5 million hectares or 85 percent forest coverage since its independence in 1960. In 2017, environmental organization Mighty Earth reported that despite Ivorian laws prohibiting land clearing in national parks and other protected areas, as much as 90 percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s protected landmasses has been converted into cocoa plantations.
In response to the forestry crisis associated with Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry, Abidjan-based non-governmental organization Impactum is initiating Partnership Cocoa and Climate Change, a Rainforest Alliance/UTZ-funded landscape management and tree ownership program targeting 1,000 cocoa farmers, two cooperatives and two village communities around Côte d’Ivoire’s Taï National Park, a 350,000-hectare World Heritage Site where some of West Africa’s last primary rainforests stand.
Impactum Chair Marc Daubrey, who spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi, shared his views with Landscape News about the partnership’s goals to build the capacity of Ivorian cocoa farmers and commit to the protection of local forests and landscapes while making a decent living doing so.
Q: What is Partnership Cocoa and Climate Change about?
A: This partnership is based on two main pillars: sustainable landscape planning and management, and tree ownership advocacy. The former is a bottom-up approach where farmers and communities at the county level can design their own strategic development plan while preserving natural resources and committing to agroforestry and reforestation. The latter enables farmers to consider their own economic interests when engaging in agroforestry or conservation, allowing the farmer to own and earn income from the trees they plant.
Q: How is the Ivorian cocoa industry an important stakeholder to engage in mitigating climate change in Africa?
A: As a major driver of deforestation, cocoa has huge impact on climate change. Conversely, climate change also threatens the sustainability of cocoa production, as well as the resilience of farmers. In partnership with the (Ivorian and Ghanaian) governments through the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, the (West African) cocoa industry has decided to commit to forest conservation and restoration, sustainable agroforestry and community and social inclusion. Taï National Park, which has some of (Côte d’Ivoire’s) last best preserved forests and biodiversity, plays a crucial role in creating a favorable microclimate.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through Impactum’s Partnership Cocoa and Climate Change?
A: The partnership aims to build the capacity of smallholder cocoa producers to implement climate change adaptation practices, natural resource management, and forest protection. It also advocates towards forestry administration to implement the Forest Code and disseminate (awareness of the policy among different stakeholders.) We intend to achieve this by building a coalition of civil society organizations and private companies to engage farmers and their communities to manage and plan sustainable landscape approaches.