Chocolats Halba as active sustainability pioneer in Ghana tackling problems in cocoa farming
Today, Chocolats Halba published its action plan for tackling problems in Ghana’s cocoa-farming sector. Petra Heid, Head of Sustainability at Chocolats Halba, comments on the importance of these measures in cocoa farming in Ghana.
Which problems in the cocoa-farming sector in Ghana does Chocolats Halba aim to tackle?
In Ghana, cocoa is usually grown on relatively small areas (approx. 3 hectares) – by small-scale farmers who rarely cultivate any other products besides cocoa on theses farms. However, due to growing methods that are not sustainable the yields are quite small. This means that the farmers’ incomes are very low so that they often live below the poverty line. In families of these small-scale farmers it is mainly the children, adolescents and women who suffer most. If we as Chocolats Halba succeed in significantly increasing the income of a small-scale farmer, we also improve the living conditions for the whole family. And that is exactly the goal we have set ourselves.
What are the main activities being implemented by Chocolats Halba to deal with these problems and described in the new CFI Report?
In our project in Ghana – where we source most of our cocoa – the main thing is to show the cocoa farmers how they can grow their cocoa more sustainably and thus increase their incomes. In this way the farmers learn to grow cocoa alongside other important other cash and food crops. They can use these additional plants for food for their families and do not need to buy them. Fruit trees and hardwood trees can also be planted as part of a cocoa mixed-cultivation system. This provides the farmers with additional income when these products are sold later at local markets. The cocoa plant grows a lot better in the shade of tall trees instead of as a single crop in the full sun. The farmer can thus look forward to a cocoa crop that is twice as big. Last year we replanted 81 plots together with the small-scale farmers; over 400 farmers were prepared for a switch at a later point in time. The good news is: Large quantities of maize, beans and chilli have already been harvested on these so-called dynamic agroforestry plots. Later, plantain, yams and manioc will be harvested too. This is a great success for us and of course the farmers.
What is the key component of the action plan – are there forward-looking projects and campaigns?
This action plan aims to prevent the deforestation of new forest areas in Ghana. Because if cocoa farmers harvest less and less cocoa on their plots they will move to new areas. Our Sankofa project makes a major contribution to avoid deforestation, preserving the forest and to reforestation.
From theory to practice: What are the specific challenges to implementing sustainability in cocoa farming in Ghana in the long term?
We are convinced that our dynamic agroforestry method can really make a big contribution to sustainable cocoa farming in Ghana. However, this means that many cocoa plots in Ghana, which are currently being farmed using no sustainable methods, would have to be converted into highly diversified agroforestry systems. This entails considerable training. Every small-scale farmer would need intensive and regular support over several years while converting his cocoa plot in a highly diversified and productive dynamic agroforestry parcel. If a lot is to grow, a lot must be sown and planted. The timely sourcing of enough plants is also a major challenge.
What goals is CFI pursuing and how important is CFI for Chocolats Halba as a sustainability pioneer for the Swiss chocolate industry in its commitment to sustainability?
The Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) was set up in 2017 by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) – in response to the widespread deforestation of the past 16 years in Ivory Coast and Ghana. The CFI aims to stop deforestation in the cocoa-growing regions of these two countries and to promote reforestation. With our dynamic agroforestry method, we are an expert in terms of implementation on a small scale, but we also have to view our commitment in the context of the bigger picture. We therefore have to ask ourselves how we can make cocoa farming more sustainable throughout the world. And this is where the CFI comes in. The CFI helps us to raise awareness of our method so that other companies can also benefit from it. That way, people do not need to constantly reinvent the wheel.
Generally speaking: what does sustainable cocoa farming look like? And how can a chocolate producer successfully commit to the field of sustainability?
Genuinely sustainable cocoa farming takes account of ecological, economic and social aspects. And because there are problems in all three areas in most cocoa-growing countries, the challenge is to practise sustainable cocoa farming that covers all these areas. A chocolate producer can successfully commit to sustainability if it enters alliances with other partners. It is not something that can be done unilaterally. The problems here are too global and complex. For instance, in our Sankofa project we work together with a quite huge number of partners.