Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, along with leading chocolate and cocoa companies, are releasing action plans to end deforestation in the cocoa sector and restore forest areas.
The countries have developed actions plans as called for under the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, launched in November 2017 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. 
The action plans focus on forest protection and restoration; sustainable cocoa production and farmers’ livelihoods; and community engagement and social inclusion. Participating governments and companies have resolved not to convert more forest land for cocoa production. They have also pledged to eliminate illegal cocoa production in protected areas, in line with stronger enforcement of national forest policies and development of alternative livelihoods for affected farmers. These actions will play a crucial role in sequestering carbon stocks and addressing global and local climate change, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have developed and published National Implementation Plans for the initiative. This follows consultations with cocoa and chocolate companies, farmer groups, environmental organizations and development partners.
The National Plan for Côte d’Ivoire builds on the new Declaration of Policy for Forest Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension adopted by the government in May 2018. Key strategic priorities include passage of the new Forest Code by government on Jan. 30, 2019 (readied for final approval by the National Assembly in April 2019), creation of a National Forest Preservation and Rehabilitation Fund, development and implementation of the national cocoa traceability system, and implementation of pilot projects in five priority regions.
The National Plan for Ghana leverages the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and enhance carbon stocks through sustainable forest management. The priority actions are to scale up landscape approaches to end forest degradation in six Hotspot Intervention Areas, improve cocoa yields through adoption of environmentally-sound climate-smart practices and strengthen supply chain mapping.
More than 30 companies, accounting for about 85 percent of global cocoa usage, have joined the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. Each company has now completed its initial action plan to spell out the steps taken over the 2018-2022 period to support ending deforestation and restoring forest areas in the cocoa supply chain. 
These initial plans will be updated this year in conjunction with the governments’ completion of several ongoing steps, including the revision of land use policies and regulations, mapping of protected areas, and collection of key forest and land use data. The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) has released the companies’ consolidated initial plans for Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Each company will publicly disclose its own individual initial plan over the next three weeks. Significant steps include:
  • Government implementation of land use and socioeconomic surveys in priority areas to collect baseline data for the design of new agroforestry and conservation programs
  • Development of farm mapping and traceability systems to ensure cocoa is sourced legally from farms outside of protected areas and monitor where cocoa from deforested areas could enter into the supply chain
  • Development of new landscape corridors to connect up fragmented forest reserves and community-based landscape management to scale up conservation efforts through broader “jurisdictional approaches”
  • Investments in sustainable agricultural intensification in order to “grow more cocoa on less land,” with a focus on climate-smart production techniques, farmer training, increased access to financing, new government operational guidelines and company investment for agroforestry
  • Looking at incentive-based systems to promote environmentally sustainable agricultural practices, for instance through the launch of payments for environmental services contracts directly with farmers
  • Government land tenure reforms and tools that allow farmers to obtain official ownership of valuable non-cocoa trees on their farms and thereby encourage investment in agro-forestry
  • Use of satellite monitoring to track illegal deforestation in hotspot areas and issue deforestation alerts
“Ending deforestation is a complex social, economic and environmental challenge,” said Alain-Richard Donwahi, Côte d’Ivoire minister of water and forests. “Our new Forest Policy adds momentum for sustainable management of Côte d’Ivoire’s forests, and our National Plan for the Cocoa & Forests Initiative defines the key actions that the government will take. 
“We welcome the initial action plans of industry and look forward to robust implementation of these public and private commitments to restore our forest heritage and ensure sustainable livelihoods for cocoa farmers. Companies and governments are stepping up – we call on development partners and civil society organizations to join us and support long-term solutions for sustainable cocoa production and forest management.”
Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, Ghana minister of lands and natural resources, adds: “The Ghana National Plan for the Cocoa & Forests Initiative is a critical building block in our strategic framework for sustainable economic growth. We aim to secure the future of our forests and make the cocoa sector climate-resilient, whilst sustaining and enhancing income and livelihood opportunities for farmers and forest users.  Partnership with the private sector is critical to unleash the financing and technical knowledge for climate-smart cocoa production and reduced emissions from deforestation.”
WCF Chairman Barry Parkin also called the disclosure of initial company action plans as a “major milestone” for ensuring transparency and accountability.
“As we implement key actions on the ground, we look forward to partnering with international financial organizations to mobilize financing, garner knowledge and technical assistance to scale up impact,” Parkin said.