Cocoa beans

Over 200 sq miles of jungle has been lost in three years in Ghana and Ivory Coast, according to Mighty Earth

Ghana and Ivory Coast, the world’s two biggest cocoa-supplying nations, lost around 225 sq miles of forest to plantations over the past three years, according to environmental campaign group Mighty Earth.

The group said it had “uncovered evidence of ongoing tropical forest destruction in the key cocoa-growing regions”, despite a government-business blueprint published in January 2019 that campaigners said raised hopes of “decisive measures” being taken “to end deforestation caused by the expansion of cocoa plantations”.

The blueprint was based on the Cocoa & Forests Initiative Framework for Action, which was signed in 2017 by the two governments, along with leading cocoa traders and chocolate manufacturers such as Hershey’s, Mars, Mondalez and Nestlé.

The initiative, which was backed by DFID, said last year that Ivory Coast had “adopted a national satellite system to monitor deforestation” and planted almost 10 million trees in 2020, while Ghana “restored about 226,000 hectares of forest area”.

But Mighty Earth’s analysis, which it said was based on ”supply chain mapping, satellite data analysis, and on-the-ground field investigations”, suggested Ivory Coast lost 74.9 sq miles of forest since the plan was published, with Ghana losing twice as much – an “astonishing” 152.5 sq miles.

The losses showed the initiative was “failing to deliver”, according to Obed Owusu-Addai of EcoCare Ghana, a NGO. Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz said chocolate companies “need to stop making empty promises and start working together with governments in the CFI to establish an open and effective joint deforestation monitoring mechanism this year”.

The two countries have lost over 80% of their forests to cocoa plantations over recent decades, according to Mighty Earth, leaving Ivory Coast with only around 200 forest elephants in the wild, though the government in Abidjan has said it aimed to have 20% of the country’s land area forested or reforested by 2030.

The UK and the European Union last year announced plans to tackle the presence in supply chains of deforestation-tainted products.

The UK said it aimed to “make it illegal for larger businesses in the UK to use commodities whose production is associated with large-scale forest loss such as cocoa, beef, soy, coffee, maize and palm oil, where they have not been produced in line with relevant local laws”.

Defra in December launched a consultation, which runs until 11 March, on what it termed “the implementation of world-leading due diligence provisions in the Environment Act to help tackle illegal deforestation in UK supply chains”.

Swathes of forest and jungle across Central Africa, Latin America and south east Asia have been cleared in recent decades for logging and for cash crops, endangering species such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Over half the world’s tropical forests have been “destroyed” since the 1960s, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.