Inside Politics

Chocolate linked to deforestation  

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 00:00 |
Chocolate. Photo/Courtesy

Rising global demand for chocolate is causing severe environmental damage through deforestation and increased use of pesticides by coffee and cocoa farmers in the tropics, scientists are now warning.

 Mass production can involve unethical practices at scale, with farmer neglect, child labour and severe environmental damage requiring urgent reform.

Higher prices are among reforms needed to tackle such challenges in the production of tropical commodities at scale.

 In a research entitled Transforming Tropical Agroforestry towards High Socio-Ecological Standards, scientist at German’s University of Göttingen urge for better and sustainable ways of crops such as coffee and cocoa.

 Scientists urge for measures that include higher pricing for indigenous crop varieties and transforming management to nurture instead of destroy natural ecosystems.

Land clearing

 For instance, both coffee and cocoa are native to forests in South America and Africa, and require shade from nearby trees to improve biodiversity.

Yet shade trees are often cut down in plantations, with reduced biodiversity leading to heavier pesticides use.

In nations of Ghana and Ivory Coast, where cocoa is grown, deforestation has been rife as more land is cleared and put under plantation agriculture.

“What we are calling for is more diversity in cacao and coffee agroforestry systems, and crops, especially in countries of origin.

This allows for development of price differentiation schemes to offer premiums for countries of origin, and stops the trend of a few multinationals controlling everything”, noted the scientists in their report.

According to the report, more diverse companies are needed too, with social and ecological commitments to build real relationships with farmers, to support them during difficult times, such as during this pandemic. 

“Products such as coffee and cocoa should be understood as luxury products if we want to achieve sustainability.

This requires higher socio-ecological standards in cultivation – but also awareness regarding marketing, consumption and demand”, observed Bea Maas, one of the researchers.

Current prices do not meet sustainability goals and, for most smallholder farmers, are too low to provide a comfortable living, researchers added.

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