Global demand for chocolate has had a significant impact on forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which together are the origin of two-thirds of the global cocoa supply. Addressing deforestation linked to the commodity in these two countries will thus be critical for ensuring sustainability within the sector. Many companies in this sector have committed to mapping their supply chains and conducting risk assessments in support of deforestation-free commitments, but they face significant challenges in achieving this goal. New legal regulations recently adopted by the European Union further drives a sense of urgency to demonstrate the cocoa and chocolate products are deforestation-free.

World Resources Institute (WRI), in partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and Climate Focus, developed two resources to help tackle these challenges. First is the West Africa Cocoa dataset, a database of mapped cocoa plot locations compiled from data collected by 19 companies. This new dataset provides a first of its kind common understanding of the mapped spread of cocoa across Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Second is the Cocoa Deforestation Risk Assessment, a harmonized method of assessing cocoa-linked deforestation risk to enable prioritization of efforts to tackle deforestation before it happens. Together these two resources will help drive collective action in the places that need it most to realize a deforestation-free cocoa sector.

Key Findings:

  • In total 1.2 million polygons were contributed to develop the West Africa Cocoa Dataset, from which 840,000 unique plots were identified. Most are between 1 to 2 hectares in size and the total land area covered by the dataset is approximately 1.5 million hectares.
  • Based upon the results of a legal and ethics review, the West Africa Cocoa dataset will not be made publicly available to respect farmer privacy. Instead, the West Africa Cocoa dataset will be distributed as a heat map so that the presence of cocoa can be seen without revealing the precise boundaries of each plot.
  • The inclusion of recent forest loss as a variable had a significant influence on the results of the Cocoa Deforestation Risk Assessment. As a result, some regions of the study area are considered a high risk, despite a lack of mapped cocoa production.
  • Conversely, a lack of recent loss translated into low priority rankings within high interest protected areas such as Taï National Park in Côte d’Ivoire and Bia National Park in Ghana. This demonstrates the power of legal protections for forests.
  • The Cocoa Deforestation Risk Assessment will be made publicly available and updated annually. The methods presented in this tech note can be replicated using remotely sensed cocoa data.

Preview image by Caroline Winchester