Cocoa & West Africa’s Rainforests

Copy of The Real Price of a Chocolate Bar

Illustration by Jacco Bunt
Documentary by The Guardian

Cocoa is a mainstay of the Ivorian and Ghanaian economies but their rainforests have been devastated by it. Chocolate traders who sell to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and other big brands buy beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960.

In the south-west region alone, 13,748 hectares (34,000 acres) of forest have been lost in 2018 – equivalent to 15,000 football fields, more than the 13,000 lost there in 2016. Governments have failed to stop it, and companies are still buying cocoa from “dirty producers” who continue to cut down the few remaining patches of rainforest, according to Chocolate Greenwashing, a Mighty Earth report released on Friday.

A new government plan will legalize large-scale deforestation and apparently reward perpetrators of the forests’ destruction.

Cocoa is mostly grown on small plots of land by individual farmers, who sell it on to cooperatives and middlemen, who in turn sell it to big companies. This makes it more difficult to track cocoa beans down to the farm they were grown on and to monitor their practices.

Some farmers believe that recently deforested land produces the best cocoa plants with the largest beans and many do not realise that cutting down rainforests will ultimately result in less rainfall and therefore worse crops. More deforested land for cocoa plantations also means less for critically endangered western chimpanzees and the forest elephants from which the Ivory Coast got its name.

It is also the responsibility of the Conseil Café Cacao, the state regulator for coffee and cocoa, to oversee the industry, checking the quality of the cocoa, ensuring the right prices are being paid, and seeing that none of it is grown using child labour or in protected areas.