Monday, 10 October 2011

Sustainably Sweet Chocolate Week

Sustainably Sweet Chocolate Week

As the UK celebrates National Chocolate Week (10-16 October), 

It goes without saying that  we Brits like our chocolate! In fact the UK is in the top 10 of chocolate-loving countries, consuming nearly 10% of the chocolate produced in the world!

Along with loving chocolate, more and more consumers are also caring about where their chocolate comes from. This has been reflected in the increase of chocolate on sale in the UK market bearing the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal - notably Galaxy by Mars and Côte d’Or by Kraft, Magnum Ghana and Ecuador ice-creams from Unilever, Tesco’s own brand chocolate bars and other smaller brands too, such as the Chocolate Truffle Company.

And with nearly 56,000 metric tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa being produced in 2010 – a 319% increase over the previous year – sustainability is clearly becoming more mainstream.

But what does this really mean to the environment and to the farmers?

The 7.5 million hectares of cocoa production landscape are all situated in tropical countries, which house the majority of the world’s biodiversity. As cocoa production has expanded, deforestation, , the thinning of tree structures on farms and the conversion of agroforestry systems to other agricultural land uses have mounted a growing threat to this biodiversity. For example, the West African Guinean Forests – which include the southern areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – have suffered from years of land conversion, including commercial agriculture and logging. As a result, only 15% of the region’s original forest cover remains.

To address this, we’ve been working with cocoa farmers since 2005. Through our cocoa programme, they receive training and support to improve not only their social and environmental management but also their agricultural practices, learning new skills and sharing their own knowledge through farmer field schools.

Farms that have then met the strict environmental and social standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) are awarded Rainforest Alliance certification. The SAN standards cover ecosystem conservation, worker rights and safety, wildlife protection, water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing, and legal wages and contracts for workers.

An independent survey undertaken by the International Institute of Sustainable Development of 102 Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire found that, compared to a control group on non-certified farms, the group of certified farms achieved nearly 4% higher average gross revenue/hectare. This resulted from nearly 7% higher average yields and 5% higher average prices.

Earlier this year, we launched the Greening the Cocoa Industry project together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The aim of the project is to transform production practices in major cocoa production countries and business practices in cocoa and chocolate companies, such that this major industry conserves biodiversity in its production landscapes, provides greater long-term stability to all value chain participants and increases income for smallholder farmers. The key goals of this Greening the Cocoa Industry project – that will work in 10 countries, including Ghana and Ecuador, over six years – is to bring 10% of the world’s cocoa production – 350,000 tons, farmed on 750,000 hectares by 250,000 farmers – into more sustainable production systems that will measurably improve biodiversity conservation in tropical ecosystems. This is how Rainforest Alliance uses the power of consumers and companies to make positive change on our planet.

Want to find out more about how you as a consumer can make the right choice for the environment and farmers alike, then watch this film.

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