Cocoa farm sustainability in the context of climate change and industry projects

Authors: Aske Bosselmann*, University of Copenhagen
Topics: Sustainability Science, Food Systems, Global Change
Keywords: Cocoa, sustainability, service delivery models, agroforestry, climate change, Ghana
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 6:25 AM / 7:40 AM
Room: Virtual 14
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


How is ‘sustainability’ shaped among small-scale cocoa farmers in the context of climate change and when they are faced with large private and public support and capacity building projects? Over the past two decades, large international actors in the chocolate industry have moved closer to the farmers in the cocoa producing regions through large projects that aim to build up capacity among the farming communities, thus complementing State-run cocoa support programs for improved production. Partly initiated by the need to combat forced and child labor in the West African cocoa areas in the early 2000s, the industry-led projects have developed into broader sustainability initiatives related to deforestation, service delivery and financing, living wages, certification and, most recently, climate-smart practices. Farmers have seen increased yields, increased cocoa acreage, digital solutions and generally better access to inputs, but despite these advances, several criteria for a sustainable cocoa sector in producing countries are largely unmet. A looming threat from climate change has incentivized so-called climate-smart practices as well as practices that meet broader sustainability goals. Through document reviews and field observations, this paper shows how industry-led sustainability projects may involve tradeoffs between different criteria for sustainability, with the aim of increasing yields and production receiving priority and, in some cases, working against other sustainability metrics. One such example is better access to chemical inputs, which have resulted in increased violation of child labor regulations. Recent emphasis on climate-smart production has the potential to reduce some of these tradeoffs.

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