Barry Callebaut has launched its first Forever Chocolate Pilot in Indonesia. This is the first of a series of five pilot programs planned in cocoa origin countries that are intended to test theories of change in our quest to accelerate impact in sustainable cocoa production. We aim to increase the income of farmers, eradicate child labor and become carbon positive. Oliver Von Hagen, who is responsible for the Forever Chocolate pilots, provides further details.

Let’s start by telling us why we need the pilots?

Oliver Von Hagen (OVH): The problems in the cocoa supply chain have been clearly identified, but the solutions to these problems, we recognize, are not so evident. But, what we know is this: low productivity on cocoa farms from poor agricultural practices, nutrient depleted soil and aging cocoa trees means that many farmers exist in a state of poverty. This means farmers are unable to invest in their farms,  and therefore continue to have low productivity and income. The consequence is that family members, who may include children, may end up working in the fields. To add to this complexity, deforestation and climate change mean that the land suitable for growing cocoa will be significantly reduced in West Africa. If the industry does not reduce its carbon footprint and achieve zero net deforestation in its supply chain, the ecosystem will continue to suffer. So, to answer your question on why we need the pilots,  we want to accelerate impact,  we want to test innovative approaches, we want to learn if these approaches are effective to reach our Forever Chocolate targets, and critically, we want to evaluate if these approaches are scalable, replicable and self-sustaining models. We are partnering with Wageningen University & Research who is providing us with robust, scientific support to provide the baseline and analytical framework against which we can assess the outcomes.

Can you tell us what the pilots are about and what you hope to achieve from them?

(OVH): For Prospering Farmers, we will create and test individual multi-year farm development plans (FDPs), which include productivity packages, replanting services and financing solutions.  FDPs are designed to be work plans which enable farmers to develop their farms into rehabilitated, diverse, professionally run farms over a period of several years. From this pilot, we hope to answer questions like, to what extent are farmers able and willing to use these farm services? How can the FDP and farm services create more income for farmers and which alternative crops are the best option to diversify farmers’ income?

In order to tackle child labor, our pilots will focus on supporting and incentivizing cocoa farmer communities to monitor, remediate and prevent child labor on cocoa farms. While we believe that monitoring and remediation is an important step in this process, we must also focus on targeting the root causes of child labor, as well as changing the system and the cultural awareness and acceptance of this practice. This means working closely together with local governments in origin countries to create an enabling environment to be able to achieve this.

To address our Thriving Nature pillar, the pilot will focus on low carbon technologies and carbon sequestration, the capture and storage of carbon so that it is not released into the atmosphere.  From this pilot we will investigate the viability of on-farm production of organic fertilizers, which non-cocoa trees and crops can best benefit farmers as well as provide carbon capture benefits, and, which low carbon technologies can deliver emission reductions at scale.

So where are the pilots located and what’s happening first?

(OVH): The pilots will be located in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil.  We have a very busy, but exciting, few months ahead of us! Our first pilot started 28 February in Indonesia. Next, we will launch our pilots in Cotè d'Ivoire and Ghana, followed by Cameroon and Brazil. The uniqueness of Barry Callebaut is that we have many of our people on the ground in these countries, so the pilots will be managed in each county, by our own sustainability teams.

Once the pilots are launched, then what? What are the next steps?

(OVH): The launch of the pilots is the formal start for the collection of the data we need to measure baseline and progress, and identify critical impact factors. It also means kicking off our work with the many partners we will engage with in the course of the pilots, and of course, testing innovative tools and approaches. Our goal for this year is to get all five pilots running and have first intermediate results towards the end of the year.

It sounds like a very busy year indeed! Is there anything else you wish to add?

(OVH): It is important to highlight that these pilots seek to accelerate our progress towards our Forever Chocolate goals, foster our impact on the ground and facilitate partnerships on this journey. This also includes instigating an enabling environment, with support from NGO’s, governments, and industry partners. As we have said previously, we cannot achieve our Forever Chocolate targets alone. We need commitments and investment from industry as well as an enabling policy environment from governments. This is really about creating a movement - and together, I believe we can make sustainable chocolate the norm.