Rick Scobey: ‘mobilizing investment is a top priority’ to end deforestation in cocoa sector

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Rick Scobey, president, WCF
Rick Scobey, president, WCF

Related tags WCF Sustainable cocoa Climate change

In the week that the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) announced joint action plans with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to end deforestation in the cocoa sector, WCF president Rick Scobey talked exclusively to CN ahead of the CMAA’s conference in Miami on why it is being realistic with its targets and explains where he hopes the money will come from to fund new programs.

CN: Deforestation in the cocoa industry is a complex issue, how are the joint action plans announced this week by the WCF going to improve things on the ground?

RS:​ This as a very important milestone in strengthening the transparency and accountability for the supply chain impact. We looked at the lessons from other commodities and supply chains about how they propose to tackle deforestation.

Many other of the supply chains have announced big, bold targets to end deforestation by a certain date, but never really drilled into it and how they would do it and they never built a partnership with the government.. soy, palm oil, beef and timber all set targets for 2020 and now they are having to review them.

We [the WCF] realized we wanted to take a different approach of joint ownership and accountability with the governments. And so that's why we created the framework for Action in November 2017, which spell out the high level of commitment and principle that governments and companies would follow to create a deforestation free supply chain.

One of the most important building blocks with that commitment was that each individual company after a year would be responsible for preparing and publicly disclosing their individual action plan that spells out exactly what they are going to do in the next five years to deliver the goal of a forestation free supply chain.

CN: Cédric van Cutsemat Mondelez’s Cocoa Life told Confectionery News that companies cannot afford to fund deforestation programs on their own​. Can the WCF use its influence to unlock more funding for the deforestation initiative?

RS:​ Mobilizing investment is a top priority. The WCF is using its weight and reaching out to International financial organizations to fund part of the programs, companies should continue to invest in their supply chain and funding should also be provided by the relevant government ministries. We've been systematically speaking to the World Bank the IFC, and other partners to develop programs that would support both the public sector and the private sector financing requirements.

Companies will finalize their initial action plans some time in 2019, and the WCF will then be able to share the investment plans of the company and have a concrete figure on how much industry is bringing into CFI.

CN: There have been calls for mandatory farm mapping across the cocoa sector; is this going to be a reality in the future?

RS:​ We had a lot of discussion with the governments about the importance of putting in place national regulations to ensure that all traders, whether local or International, would be required to map and trace where their cocoa comes from and both governments have agreed to that as an important national policy.

Whereas most of the international companies are very advanced in mapping their farms and providing GPS coordinates for where they buy the cocoa. The local traders don't have those tools and plans in place … we just need to figure out what's a realistic schedule to make sure the national traders comply – and what kind of financing and investment support do the national traders need to meet the agreed standards.

Cocoa has been both part of the problem and can be a key element of the solution

CN: Climate change has sometimes forced cocoa farmers to cut down trees in protected areas. How are the joint action plans going to address this particular issue?

RS:​ Cocoa has been both part of the problem and can be a key element of the solution. By encroaching into protected areas, they have accelerated the release of greenhouse gases that affects global climate change.  We believe that stopping deforestation is one of the least cost and most simple steps that the global community and national governments can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But of course cocoa is a tree crop and our proposal under the CFI is to scale up agroforestry where farmers start growing cocoa trees with other kinds of economic or environmental trees, which will create an improved landscape that actually better stores carbon and improves the microclimate. So we're very excited that we can invest in cocoa production as a restoration of the degraded landscape.

CN: What about farmer livelihoods, all the schemes mentioned so far will have to include living standards for cocoa workers and their families, right?

RS​: Yes, I agree. One of the most important breakthroughs the WCF has made with the framework for action was on famer livelihood and an integrated landscape approach. We focused on the three critical themes of forest protection and restoration a sustainable livelihood and sustainable production, and community engagement and social inclusion.

The level of poverty for these cocoa farmers has been driving them into the protected forests to grow more cocoa. One of the most important steps is to improve their income and their farm profitability. Therefore, we are doing that with a strong focus on growing more cocoa by providing improved planting materials.

CN: Finally, what would you like to see happen by the end of 2020?

RS:​ The plan to end deforestation is a long-term Journey. We have thousands of farmers who are living in protected areas and need to receive alternative livelihoods for them to move out of the forest. We recognize the reality that there is no quick fix here. That’s why we've been very clear to not put in artificial targets or deadlines.

I'm very confident that by the end of 2020 we'll have made significant progress in scaling up traceability. Finally I’d like to say that I think it's important to note that for example, the chocolate companies have made a commitment to map the GPS location of one million farms over the next five years and we've made a commitment to develop 400,000 hectares of cocoa agroforestry.

We're going to be distributing and planting 12.6 million native trees for farm for forest restoration and will be signing payments with 250,000 farmers for payments for environmental.

These are the kinds of commitments that it's important that industry make and that we transparently share with all of the global stakeholders so that they can monitor our progress on delivering against these targets.

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