Rainforest Alliance calls for cocoa sector to help small-holder farmers with deforestation rules

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

A cocoa farmer dries her beans in Ghana. Pic: Rainforest Alliance
A cocoa farmer dries her beans in Ghana. Pic: Rainforest Alliance

Related tags deforestation Cocoa Chocolate Sustainability

The Rainforest Alliance certification platform has called for more support for smallholder cocoa farmers to ensure they are not unintentionally excluded from the EU market under the new deforestation regulations.

The international nonprofit says it has fast-tracked the alignment of its certification programme with the new regulations, including proprietary AI remote sensing data for mapping deforestation risks.

In the Rainforest Alliance certification platform, certified coffee and cocoa farmers can opt-in to specific criteria that align with European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) requirements. It says this will allow companies to source from participating farms, trace those ingredients through their supply chains, and leverage farm data by the regulation's deadline to prove that they have a system in place to assess and mitigate deforestation risks in their supply chains, at no additional cost – supporting them to make a giant leap towards full compliance.

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Newly enforced regulations will require companies and traders placing products that contain any of the seven deforestation-risk commodities – including coffee and cocoa – on the EU market or exporting them from the EU to prove by 30 December 2024 that these products do not originate from land deforested after 31 December 2020.

The Rainforest Alliance is a globally recognized certification program used by many of the major chocolate companies and helps farmers collect and process crucial geo-coordinates for their farms.

This information is vital for accurately mapping deforestation risks, with the analysis conducted at the farm level using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. The process integrates Rainforest Alliance's proprietary AI remote sensing forest data alongside other publicly available and government data sources to map deforestation risks, which improves accuracy compared to relying solely on open-source data methods.

AI forest mapping

Farmer groups then use these risk maps for internal deforestation checks, particularly in high-risk areas. As an additional layer of assurance, independent, third-party auditors use these maps to conduct risk-based verification of no-deforestation, as mandated by the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. The combination of traceability, proprietary AI forest mapping, and auditing offers coffee and cocoa companies a unique solution.

“The Rainforest Alliance has been working to tackle tropical deforestation in global supply chains for more than 35 years,” said Michelle Deugd, Director of Forests and Agriculture. “Traceability has always been the backbone of that approach. Building on these foundations, we’ve worked hard to fast-track the alignment of our certification program with the new regulations, including proprietary AI remote sensing data for mapping deforestation risks.”

It is now calling on companies and legislators to ensure smallholders are supported to adapt to the new requirements, preventing their exclusion from the EU market.

"We have a unique opportunity to step up our collective efforts to tackle deforestation while protecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers," said Deugd. "By working together, we can ensure that the EUDR is a win-win for both people and nature."



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