Historically, issues of deforestation and cocoa production have gone hand in hand. Driven by an increase in demand for cocoa, a decrease in current arable land and a diminution of cocoa production from aging trees, much of the growth in supply has come from land that has been illegally deforested.
Over 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. These two nations have lost the vast bulk of their forests over the past several decades. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are estimated to have lost 80-95% of their forests in the last 60 years. One third of that is the result of cocoa production.
Tony’s together with all its Tony's Open Chain mission allies has made a conscious decision to prevent deforestation on the farms from which our cocoa purchases come and, moreover, to reforest previously denuded lands where possible. Anti-deforestation efforts are part of our comprehensive cocoa supply chain traceability system and provides us with the opportunity to identify issues where they exist and to put in place effective efforts to resolve them.
We do so for a variety of reasons. Climate change has already hit our farmers hard and we are committed to improving the life of our farmers. Thus, preventing and counteracting illegal deforestation is not only environmentally the right thing to do, but for any mission driven corporation like Tony’s, the socially correct policy to undertake.
Anti-deforestation efforts of Tony’s Open Chain
Like Tony’s Open Chain's efforts to rid cocoa farms of child labor, which are based on integrating several different aspects to help alleviate cocoa farmer poverty, the root cause of the use of child labor and illegal labour in this industry, Tony’s Open Chain's anti-deforestation efforts also integrate several different initiatives. These include:
Addressing the issue of productivity by implementing good agricultural practices such as pest control and soil fertility;
Addressing farmer agroforestry knowledge through awareness raising and training focusing on productivity enhancing measures like pruning;
Addressing climate change issues via agroforestry programs such as creating local shade tree nurseries, many of them female run, to support the planting of shade trees to a level of eighteen trees per hectare (more than 500,000 trees are expected to be planted by the 2023-2024 cocoa planting season);
Addressing the issue of expansion into protected areas by providing famers with alternate plots of land in non-protected areas;
Addressing the issue of monoculture by helping famers diversity crops including the planting of multi-use shade and fruit trees; and
Detailed polygon mapping of all the cocoa farms in the partner cooperatives of Tony’s Open Chain works via the latest GPS technology.
GPS mapping system
The GPS mapping system is an ongoing project. Every time the number of partner cooperatives of Tony's Open Chain increases, it increases the number of farms to be surveyed. Our goal is to make sure that all farms are surveyed in the year in which they join. By the 2020/2021 cocoa season, 100% of all farms had been mapped and mapped against protected areas. The data is kept up to date through annual remapping exercises.
Once the mapping is done, Tony’s is the final arbiter of the veracity of the data. The information collected is checked against the newest governmental forest boundary maps. Data quality is held to the highest standards of polygon mapping. Our team of professionals in West Africa (including an agroeconomist and traceability expert) supports the mapping and protected area assessments.
Tony’s does not just collect the data and lets it sit in isolation. The GPS mapping data is matched against Tony’s Open Chain's bean-to-bar traceability system, which records farm production so that any large variance in production can be identified and be potentially linked to deforestation should that be the issue.
Data quality is also assured via partnerships with inspecting organizations such as Fairtrade which conducts its own deforestation audits. Local agencies also play a role in checking data. Farms are revisited on a regular basis and remapped with new data being overlayed against existing protected area boundaries.
If illegal deforestation is found
Currently, no farmers belonging to the cooperatives from which Tony’s Open Chain sources its beans produce from land in protected zones. But, if we discover production from protection zones or from the buffer zones that surround them, Tony’s Open Chain acts.
Tony’s does not bring criminal charges against a farmer but we:
Report the incident to the relevant local and national authorities;
Immediately cease all sourcing from that farm;
Consult with the farmer and the cooperative on remedial agroforestry measures;
Help the farmer find an alternative plot of land on which to grow cocoa not in a protected area;
Remediate by planting new trees in the deforested area in a way that creates shade, lowers temperature, reduces carbon emissions and diversifies the canopy;
Provide tailored education to the farmer in order to help prevent further deforestation efforts.
These anti-deforestation efforts are a central part of the fight against climate change of Tony's Open Chain. We see it as a key performance indicator for the company and have committed significant time, resources and technology to be able to say with certainty that we have mapped one hundred percent of the producing farmers in the coops we have worked with in the past and are currently mapping the farms of the two new coops we brought on board for this growing season.
While our work is not done, what is done is the creation and implementation of a system that can be replicated by any business that seeks to prevent deforestation and to limit, and maybe reverse, the impact of climate change.