Keep National Parks Safe, Know Your Chocolate

Choc.jpgI am now learning more about cacao, and its end use, the sweet we all adore. The rise in artisanal cacao farming, as we have noted on occasion, can have important implications for conservation. Whether you are a chocoholic or just a casual dabbler in the sweet bi-product of cacao, this report deserves your attention (click on the image to go to the source):

Chocolate is everywhere. It is the afternoon pick-me-up, the sensual indulgence, the accoutrement to seduction. Lovers gift truffles, skiers sip on rich hot chocolate, and connoisseurs savor the tiniest, richest bite of single origin dark chocolate. The ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac, and the emperor Montezuma was reported to gorge himself on chocolate in advance of his trysts.

But chocolate is truly a guilty pleasure. Thousands of miles away from the American and European homes where the majority of the world’s chocolate is devoured, lies the denuded landscape of West Africa’s Ivory Coast. The nation is the world’s largest producer of cocoa, the raw material for chocolate. As its name suggests, elephants once abundantly roamed the rainforests of Ivory Coast. Today’s reality is much different: many of the country’s national parks and conservation lands have been cleared of their forest to make way for cocoa operations to feed demand from large chocolate companies like Nestlé, Cadbury, and Mars.

Mighty Earth conducted an in-depth global investigation into the cocoa that provides the raw material for chocolate. These companies purchase the cocoa for their chocolate bars from large agribusiness companies like Olam, Cargill, and Barry Callebaut, who together control around half of global cocoa trade. Most strikingly, the investigation found that for years the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying cocoa grown through the illegal deforestation of national parks and other protected forests, in addition to driving extensive deforestation outside of protected areas. In the world’s two largest cocoa producing countries, Ivory Coast and Ghana, the market created by the chocolate industry has been the primary driver behind the destruction of forests.

Many of Ivory Coast’s national parks and protected areas have been entirely or almost entirely cleared of forest and replaced with cocoa growing operations. In neighboring Ghana, the situation is similar: according to our analysis, 291,254 acres of protected areas were cleared between 2001 and 2014. In that same time, Ghana lost 7,000 square kilometers of forest, or about 10 percent of its entire tree cover; approximately one quarter of that deforestation was connected to the chocolate industry. Without action, Ghana stands to lose all remaining forests outside its national parks in the next decade. Chimpanzees, elephants, and other wildlife populations have been decimated by the conversion of forests in both countries to cocoa; in Ivory Coast, only 200-400 elephants remain from an original population of hundreds of thousands.

Now, the chocolate industry is bringing its unsustainable model of production to new forest frontiers in other parts of Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia…

Read the whole report here.


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