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FTA celebrates 10 years of achievements and sets ambitions for the future

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The “final” FTA event on Dec. 9 culminated 10 impactful years of research for development; it brought together 338 attendees from over 50 countries to hear about the partnership’s top accomplishments and lessons learned. These successes light the collective path forward into a new decade of continued research and impact.

“This is a springboard,” said Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) Director General, and Director of the first phase of FTA, Robert Nasi. “…We don’t want to stop here, as there is much more work to do in light of the recent COP26, the CBD and the news you see every day. We have a good team; we have a good set of partners. I see no reason why we should stop here.”

To begin the event, lead scientists from FTA’s Flagship programs and managing-partner organizations presented chapters from the FTA Highlights series, which showcases a decade of results, findings and achievements. More than 200 scientists were involved as authors in the highlights series’ 18 volumes. The event was organized around four sections which represent a partition of the highlights volumes.

The full event can be replayed in EN (ES and FR to follow). Download the agenda of the event.


Session #1: Forests, Trees and Agroforestry for Biodiversity and Food Systems

The first session was moderated by Linda Collette, member of the Independent Steering Committee of FTA, and showcased volumes two through six of the highlights series. Each of these chapters emphasize research and impactful projects related to tree genetic resources, biodiversity, landscape restoration, food systems and wildlife.

Leading the way, Ramni Jamnadass, FTA’s Flagship 1 Leader and senior scientist at ICRAF, presented on seeds and seedlings (Vol.2). She highlighted the need for diverse, high-quality seeds to sprout successful landscape restoration initiatives that are good for business and for ecosystems. “We have seen soaring tree-planting pledges over the past few years,” she said, “so this is an opportune time to bring up the seeds and to ask where they are coming from. …remember: garbage in, garbage out. Quality in, quality out.”

Read volume 2

Senior researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Barbara Vinceti, similarly reflected the need for diversity in her presentation on conservation of tree biodiversity and forest management (Vol. 3). In light of the ongoing environmental challenges facing the planet, “genetic diversity is a dimension still overlooked, so we need to include it explicitly in forest conservation and management,” she said.

Read volume 3

However, restoring ecosystem services is a difficult topic from a development perspective because it is multi-dimensional and multi-scalar, according to senior CIFOR scientist, Manuel Guariguata. Presenting on forest and landscape restoration (Vol. 4), he summarized FTA’s contributions to research and policy governance. He also celebrated the partnership’s on-the-ground implementation of FLR initiatives, “The restoration agenda is the bread and butter of FTA partners, and we have contributed a lot in this regard” he said. “We also learned a lot. For instance, we learned it is critical to implement FLR through landscape approaches.”

Read volume 4

Next, senior CIFOR scientist Amy Ickowitz showcased tree and agroforestry contributions to food security and nutrition. Ten years of research across Africa, Asia and South America has increasingly proved the links between trees and micro-nutrient-rich diets. “A lot more still needs to be done to have these contributions [from food trees] both better understood and, more importantly, better integrated in national discourses and policy,” said Ickowitz.

Read volume 5

Wild meat is another important, albeit controversial, source of nutrition that comes from forests. World expert and CIFOR senior associate, Julia Fa, has worked with the Bushmeat Research Initiative (BRI) to study how wild meat consumption impacts the environment, contributes to food security and impacts human health through its association with zoonotic diseases. She and her team have worked in more than 40 countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done in the last 10 years, and based on this, there is now an agenda to translate research to action, to link implementation and further learning and to ensure that wild meat is sustainably sourced and harvested,” said Fa.

Read volume 6

Session #2 – Forests, Trees and Agroforestry for Livelihoods

The second session was moderated by René Boot, member of the FTA ISC and Director of Tropenbos International; it centred on the highlights’ volumes seven through nine plus 15. These chapters reveal how FTA and its partners have worked to improve well-being and generate income through trees for people in developing areas.

For example, FTA Management Team member and CATIE senior scientist, Eduardo Somarriba, discussed how Trees on Farms (ToF), can generate income for farmers while also providing valuable ecosystem services. He especially focused on a case from Honduras where trees have been planted as “live fences” to facilitate rotational livestock grazing. “It is possible to increase innovation with trees on farms, but we need solid science to convince farmers, land-use planners and policymakers,” he said. “You need a lot of communication, facilitation and to show good financial performance.”

Read volume 7 (COMING SOON)

Sustainable timber harvesting for bioenergy is another way that trees can act as engines for sustainable development. INBAR representative, Li Yanxia, discussed how a wood-based circular bioeconomy could benefit local communities and global economies while reducing the ecological footprint of deforestation. “Efforts should not only invest in building natural capital,” she said. “Attention should also be directed towards building human capacity and understanding the social dimensions of the wood value chains through forest tenure systems, etc.”

Read volume 8 (COMING SOON)

Transitioning to a circular bioeconomy will require context-specific approaches that work at scale. In his presentation, CIFOR-ICRAF chief scientist and FTA Flagship 2 Leader Fergus Sinclair specifically promoted FTA’s work on Options by Context (OxC), a set of performance metrics that allow farmers and researchers to identify the best options for agricultural development and land restoration in their local areas. He also spotlighted the recent launch of the Agroecology Transformative Partnership Platform (TPP) that FTA incubated, and which brings together people from around the world to discuss sustainable food systems transitions. “There are multiple transition pathways depending on local contexts and partnerships; this is what allows us to scale up sustainably.”

Read volume 9 (COMING SOON)

None of this work is possible without financial support and increased investment in sustainable forest and tree-based commodities. Presenting the FTA Highlight Volume 10 on sustainable value chains, finance and investment in forestry & tree commodities, Michael Brady, FTA’s Flagship 3 Leader, outlined three core research areas for sustainable value chains: institutional arrangements, business models for smallholders and SMEs and responsible finance among financial service providers. He noted that research this decade has especially focused on sustainable certification systems for agro-commodities such as timber, rubber, shea, oil palm and cocoa. “This particular topic very much requires a systems approach looking at institutional, environmental and socioeconomic elements,” he said. “None of these can be really ignored when you consider value chains, finance and investment.”

Read volume 10

Cross-cutting all of FTA’s work on livelihoods is the need to advance gender equality and social inclusion. FTA’s Gender coordinator and senior researcher at The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, Marlène Elias outlined FTA’s Theory of Change, which places inclusion at the heart of the organization’s structure and encourages research done specifically with a gender and social inclusion lens. The goal is for women and other marginalized groups to share equal rights, access and tenure to forest and tree-based landscapes. “What we’ve shown in this work is not only that gender inequality can hinder efforts to achieve positive environmental outcomes but also how policies and interventions that focus on the environment can advance gender equality,” she said.

Read volume 15

Session #3 – Forests, Trees and Agroforestry for Climate change and the SDGs

The third session of the event focused on how FTA’s research aligns with the SDGs and contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moderated by Florencia Montagnini, member of FTA’s ISC, the presenters spoke on volumes 11-14 of the highlights series.

Starting off, Christopher Martius, CIFOR senior scientist and Flagship 5 Leader, offered several examples from FTA’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+. This work has helped governments set target emissions levels and to implement monitoring systems to track progress. While celebrating the work that was achieved over the past 10 years, Martius reminded the audience that long-term changes take time: “Oftentimes projects have a lot of high expectations,” he said. “In a 10-year program such as this, you will start seeing results, but it takes a lot of time to effectuate these changes in really complex policy environments.”

Read volume 11 

It is well-known that forests and trees act as carbon sinks and ecosystem service providers. The mitigation agenda has often hidden a crucial adaptation agenda for forests and trees. FTA has worked to shift paradigms towards the key role of forests and trees for adaptation of various sectors.  FTA’s approach also looks at how social and ecological systems can work together and adapt to climate change, according to senior CIFOR scientist Alexandre Meybeck. “You need to have research embedded in implementation,” he said. “We need normal interactions between actors on the ground and scientists to support them in creating the new systems for the future.”

Read volume 12 (COMING SOON)

In order to facilitate mutually-beneficial relationships between humans and ecosystems, FTA promotes a multifunctional landscapes approach that uses careful resource planning and implementation to generate more sustainable futures. Scientist at ICRAF, Lalisa Duguma, presented on how the organization has begun implementing these approaches in the humid tropics, managing trade-offs and synergies across multiple project sites. “We can’t solve all the problems at once, but they all need to be confronted in a way” he said. “There is a need for multiple projects to complement one another to achieve multi-functional landscapes. …for this, we need an articulated portfolio of research and action on the ground.”

Read volume 13 (COMING SOON)

Beyond on-the-ground approaches, FTA works with governments to build policies that harmonize human development with nature. Senior ICRAF scientist Beria Leimona spoke about how this work has involved advocating for multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs), supporting community forestry initiatives and lobbying for fair government policies. “The rich portfolios of local, national and international work, and the theories of change that FTA has developed, can support good governance principles being synergised across scales,” she said.

Session #4 – Results and impact

During the fourth session of presentations, led by Management Team member and CIRAD senior scientist Plinio Sist, scientists gave more details about how FTA measures its results and impact across scales.

Andrew Wardell began with a presentation on how FTA facilitates long-term capacity development. For example, his team collated data from the decade to track impacts and found there have been almost 80,000 downloads of the climate change tools that have been developed by FTA Flagship 5. Another example of capacity development includes the work done with the University of Kisangani, DRC, to train graduate students in forestry science and development. Already, the program has over 200 local students and graduates who will hopefully continue to work in the tropical rainforests of DRC. In the future, Wardell believes “there is a need to strengthen education systems and capacities in the global south, rather than relying on masters and PhD students from the global north. …This needs to be accompanied by monitoring and evaluation systems that look at the capacity development functions, including through ex post impact studies.”

Read volume 16 (COMING SOON)

In addition to capacity development, research for impact requires monitoring, evaluation, learning and impact assessment (MELIA). “Evolving research for development approaches require evolution in how we conceptualize and assess research,” said Brian Belcher, senior researcher at Royal Roads University. “How do we know that we’re doing the right thing? How do we know that we’re being effective?” To answer these questions, FTA has developed and applied an innovative approach based on integrative, challenge-driven Theories of Change and an organizing framework. These tools allow FTA to conduct qualitative assessments of some of the impacts of the program at scale and on key development objectives. Impact of FTA research overall has been substantial, it is estimated that FTA’s work has:

  • Brought between 1.8–34.4 million ha of land under
  • Provided between 5.1–19 million people with better means to exit poverty.
  • Brought 25.7–133.4 million ha of forests under enhanced protection. This represents up to 125.4 Gt of sequestered carbon dioxide.
  • Brought 59.5–204 million ha of land under better management via improved policy, monitoring and management practices.
  • Provided 1.12–3.43 million people with additional means to improve food and nutritional security.

Read volume 17

Following each set of presentations, the audience was asked through a poll whether they thought more implementation or more research was needed going forward. Although there was some debate, it is interesting that most poll respondents chose “more implementation.” The scientists agreed that implementation is now urgent, however, the relationship between research and implementation cannot be easily divided. “Do we need more research or implementation?,” said Meybeck. “We need a greater understanding of the relations between the two. We need more implementation of research and more research on implementation.”

Final discussion on the future of FTA

The closing panel brought together five distinguished speakers to discuss partnerships and new directions going forward. When moderator and FTA Director, Vincent Gitz, asked how organizations like FTA should work with actors in the global south going forward, Chairperson of the Independent Steering Committee of FTA, Anne-Marie Izac said, “Great focus on the role of partnerships is the very raison-d’être of FTA. …We have a relatively clear path ahead of us in terms of scaling up to build on local partneships… and I’m extremely hopeful.”

Sist (CIRAD) agreed that after 10 years and looking forward to a new FTA, we should put emphasis on strengthening our connection with society and with other actors in the field: “Our resources must breach the broader society if we want to catalyse large-scale changes that address climate change and other global challenges” he said.

Bas Louman from Tropenbos International, an organization that joined the set of FTA managing partners in 2017, also spoke on the value of an integrated, research-for-development approach for the new FTA, from upstream research to downstream, and back. “In spite of so much money being dedicated to climate, very little of that money is dedicated to research,” he said. “People just spend money and start implementing without really taking the time to think about what they’re doing. We need to help the word correct for that, to continue learning at the same time action is being made on the ground.”

To combat this trend, Li Xuejiao Deputy Director of the Division of International Cooperation at the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) upheld the importance of ongoing South-South collaboration in the coming decade. “Research plays a very important role in terms of putting items on the agenda in the first place,” she said. Li pointed to ongoing networking opportunities for Chinese organizations through the FTA network.

Similarly, Erich Schaitza, Director General of Brazil’s Embrapa Florestas, praised the networking potential of FTA: “We have to have innovation to promote wealth sustainably,” he said. “Initiatives like FTA are incredibly important to us.”

In closing, Vincent Gitz, Director of FTA, called on the audience to remain hopeful about future progress and to work together to achieve goals. He said, “Often it is difficult to see the magnitude, increment and annual changes in the work we live in. But when we look back 10 years, we see the huge magnitude on how some things have changed and evolved, on the progress made for our planetary environment and people. Not all is solved of course, but it gives us hope that we can be effective for the future… And as the famous proverb says, ‘if we want to go far, we have to go together.’”

Stay tuned for the next decade of FTA, and a special thanks to all the scientists and partners who have made these past 10 years possible.

All the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations are now available below


This article was written by Daniella Silva.

This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • New partnership with Google Arts & Culture brings more visibility to trees

New partnership with Google Arts & Culture brings more visibility to trees

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Eight stunning digital exhibits to reduce humans’ “plant blindness” surrounding forests, trees and agroforestry

Forests and trees are allies in the fight to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, but it is not always easy to see their contributions to livelihoods, ecosystems, food security and nutrition. On Dec. 9, FTA launches its partnership with Google Arts & Culture to bring audiences eight visually-engaging exhibits for forests, trees and agroforestry. The prestigious collaboration makes 10 years of forest-based research and impact more accessible to global audiences.

“As scientists, we were pleased to create exhibits with Google Arts & Culture, a new way to bring our important message to global audiences: trees are drivers of sustainable development,” said FTA Director, Vincent Gitz, “they are the cornerstone of our future.”

This work forms part of a larger Google collaboration with over 60 international organizations. Together, the partners aim to reduce “plant blindness” — the tendency for people to have difficulty empathizing with plants and the environment at risk.

Explore these eight exhibits from FTA and its strategic partners, featuring compelling images, Google Streetview, videos, key messages and infographics and find out more about our research!

A Global Partnership for Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Learn more about FTA and the scope of its international work!

Access the story of FTA here!

The Forest Transition Curve

Explore the relationship between trees, humans and ecosystem services over time.

Learn about the Forest Transition Curve!

Trees on Farms

Find out how planting trees on farms (agroforestry) makes good business sense while also contributing to healthy ecosystems and food security and nutrition.

Read about the benefits of adding trees to farms!

Forest Landscape Restoration

Learn more about the 6 principles of FLR and the top 7 tree-planting misconceptions!

Did you know there are many ways to achieve FLR?

FTA Highlights of a Decade: From research to impact

This exhibit showcases FTA’s achievements over the past 10 years.

Access 10 years of research in a nutshell!

From Tree to Fork

Did you know that trees and forests are the key to the world’s future food security and nutrition? Learn more about how trees provide healthy foods, cultural traditions and jobs to people everywhere.

How many of these fruits have you tasted?

Ingenious Innovations

The tree sector is often perceived to be a low-tech world… time to change your opinions! Read up on these top 11 innovations that FTA and its partners have developed.

Innovations are at the core of forestry!

Roleplaying Agroecology

Play along as a smallholder farmer, policy maker and palm-oil plantation manager to learn more about the difficult decisions that we all need to make to protect our planet. What choices will you make?

Play along with us!


The full Google campaign with 60+ partner pages and curated exhibits will be released early next year, sensitizing more people to the vital role of trees for climate adaptation, biodiversity, food security and nutrition. Stay tuned for more!

This article was written by Daniella Silva.

This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • COVID-19 and what it means for wild meat

COVID-19 and what it means for wild meat

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Photo credit: ©Brent Stirton/Getty Images for FAO, CIFOR, CIRAD, WCS
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16 April 2020 16.00-17.00 GMT+7
(convert to your timezone here)

The spreading of diseases from animals to humans—also called zoonotic—is a public health concern in light of the current pandemic. COVID-19 that has now spread to more than 100 countries worldwide is also suspected to be originated from pangolin or bat sold in market in Wuhan, China.

As the efforts to curb pandemic accelerate, many conservationists are welcoming China’s move to outlaw hunting and consumption of wild animals. And yet, the reality is not that simple. The ban may put millions of forest dwellers at risk of food insecurity, as Indigenous or rural communities often consume wild meat as their sole source of protein.

How do we address this challenge? Can we find the middle ground to this complex reality?

This webinar is organized with the support of the TRADE HUB, SWM, FTA projects and the Bushmeat Research Initiative of CIFOR.

Register here

For more detail about event click here.

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  • Towards zero-deforestation commodities in Ghana’s Atiwa forest

Towards zero-deforestation commodities in Ghana’s Atiwa forest

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The Atewa forest range is threatened by agricultural expansion, logging and mining. Photo: Ahtziri Gonzalez/CIFOR
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Testing a jurisdictional approach to landscape governance

Located just a couple of hours drive from Ghana’s bustling capital city Accra, the Atewa forest range is a unique ecosystem. It is home to endangered and endemic species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and amphibians.

It is also the source of three of the country’s main rivers: the Ayensu, Densu and Birim, which supply drinking water to the greater Accra region and beyond.

But rising demand for commodities and natural resources, driven by Ghana’s growing middle class and global consumerism, threaten this once secluded forest. New roads and infrastructure, combined with its strategic location between the country’s two largest cities, make Atiwa an attractive spot for business.

At the foothills of the Atewa forest range Photo by Ahtziri Gonzalez/CIFOR

Atiwa’s western fringes, for example, are marked by a thriving agriculture sector comprised of oil palm, cocoa, oranges, rubber, cassava and banana production. Large plantations run by international and Ghanaian companies coexist with smallholders that either participate in outgrower schemes or farm independently.  Because of its abundance of mineral resources, the area is also a breeding ground for “galamseyers,” as artisanal gold miners are locally known.

While these activities could bring opportunities and improve the living conditions of local communities, they also create important governance challenges to reconcile conservation and economic growth objectives — thus calling for innovative solutions to ensure that development does not come at the cost of forest degradation and deforestation.

Solutions within jurisdictional boundaries

The “jurisdictional approach” is a method of landscape governance that focuses on building multi-stakeholder collaboration, negotiation and decision-making within jurisdictional boundaries. It brings together the different private, public and civil society actors that are present in a particular landscape, to collaborate toward conservation, supply chain sustainability and green development goals.

With these objectives in mind, FTA, together with Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), with funding from the European Union, has launched a new initiative that aims to contribute to “zero deforestation commodities” in Ghana by applying a jurisdictional approach in the Kwaebibirem municipality and the Atiwa West district – a hotspot of commodity production in the Atiwa landscape.

“Successful experiences around the world show that jurisdictional approaches can reconcile what might often be seen as conflicting objectives,” said George Schoneveld, a senior scientist with CIFOR. “Enhancing production on existing farmland, conserving natural resources and creating value for smallholders; they can all be achieved if all stakeholders within a jurisdiction are brought together.”

In the framework of the Governing Multifunctional Landscapes (GML) project, CIFOR’s team scoped six countries to find a landscape where they could test this approach and apply it to the Sub-Saharan African context, said Emily Gallagher, a CIFOR scientist. “We chose to work in Ghana’s Eastern Region because of its dynamic agriculture sector, fast deforestation rates and interested stakeholders,” she added.

In the selected jurisdiction, according to Gallagher, CIFOR’s initial assessments have shown that local actors’ main concerns are to improve land use planning, promote sustainable intensification, increase access to quality inputs, meet sustainable sourcing commitments, and promote more sustainable and inclusive value chains.

“After talking to more than 30 actors, including the Forestry Commission, District Agricultural Development Units, the Cocoa Health and Extension Division, private enterprises, farmer associations, local NGOs, and research centers, we are confident that a jurisdictional approach has the potential to address these issues.”

Getting everybody on board

The Atiwa Landscape Platform, which will be formally launched in early 2020, is expected to become a formal space for local actors to discuss, negotiate and agree on a common pathway for the future development of this landscape.

“The ultimate goal of the platform is to have a ‘Landscape Development Strategy’ approved by 2021 and fully owned by local governments, traditional authorities, agricultural producers, forest users, companies and traders,” Schoneveld said.

FTA and CIFOR will support stakeholders to conduct baseline assessments, facilitate exchanges, and mediate negotiations, Gallagher said. “Ultimately it is up to the local stakeholders to create working groups, choose a governance structure for the platform and decide the way forward,” he said.

Cocoa is an important cash crop for farmers in the Atiwa landscape. Photo: Ahtziri Gonzalez/CIFOR

Another important consideration will be financing the implementation of such a strategy, and one of the project’s objectives is to build a strong business case and identify potential funding sources.

“We will also support capacity building on fundraising and grant-writing to help stakeholders find the necessary means to make this intervention sustainable in the long term,” Schoneveld said.

“We look forward to seeing the platform in action to support local development, while ensuring that the Atiwa forest continues to thrive for the generations to come,” Gallagher said.

This project will be carefully documented, as it is expected to guide similar interventions across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ahtziri Gonzalez, communication specialist

This project is supported by the European Union and is part of FTA’s research. FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • How to sweeten the deal for cocoa farmers?

How to sweeten the deal for cocoa farmers?

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Cocoa. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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Cocoa is in high demand. In 2018, the global chocolate industry was worth close to USD 100 billion, and it is projected to grow. Consumers are increasingly asking for sustainably sourced products, and new kinds of investors are looking for positive environmental and social impacts, in addition to financial returns.

But, many cocoa farmers are poor, even now when the market price for cocoa is relatively high. During the past two years, when prices were lower, farmers had an even harder time making a living. So much so that Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producers, recently demanded that chocolate companies pay a minimum floor price for cocoa, in an attempt to guarantee smallholders a minimum income.

While both countries have agreed to sell their 2020–2021 cocoa crops for no less than USD 2,600 per ton, such an agreement has been deemed to be at best a short-term fix for struggling cocoa producers. Rather, say scientists from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the cocoa sector urgently needs to completely rethink its business models. Only then will equitable benefit sharing among all actors in the cocoa value chain be possible.

Challenges abound

Cocoa at Machu Picchu. Photo by Marlon del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Peter Minang, leader of landscape dynamics, productivity and resilience research under FTA, pointed out that many national economies in Africa depend on the production of agroforestry commodities such as cocoa, cashew nuts, shea butter, and coffee, cultivated across millions of hectares of forests and parkland. Cocoa alone covers six million hectares across Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire which, combined, supplied around 75 percent of the world’s cocoa in 2018–2019.

In addition to the persistent poverty of cocoa growers, many other problems still need solving, explained Minang. These include plant diseases, such as the cocoa swollen shoot virus, which are affecting the production on several million hectares. The heavy use of pesticides is not a viable solution, as they harm human health, pollinators and the overall environment. The cocoa sector is also under pressure to eliminate the currently widespread use of child labor in West Africa.

“There’s a bigger problem, economically,” Minang continued. “Even though Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire produce 75 percent of the world’s cocoa, they capture a small portion of the total value of the global chocolate industry.”

Minang said that scientists could help provide the knowledge and support required to transform this industry so that smallholder farmers can take part in the market and benefit from its value.

[Read more: Bitter or sweet trade for Africa’s cocoa farmers?]

Investments needed

Tony Simons, the director general of World Agroforestry (ICRAF), said he wanted to encourage greater engagement with the private sector: “For every one dollar OECD donors spend on overseas development assistance in the tropics, there is a thousand dollars of private capital to be mobilized. So why are we only focused on that one dollar?”

Particularly, the emerging area of impact investment could have the potential to make a difference for cocoa farmers. About USD 500 billion of so-called impact investments are currently available. While most of this money is directed at energy, transport or waste-reduction investments within OECD countries, a growing share of impact investors seem to be taking an interest in funding land and forest initiatives in the Global South.

Dietmar Stoian, lead scientist on value chains, private sector engagement and investments with ICRAF, has conducted a series of interviews with potential impact investors to understand how cocoa farmers in Ghana might benefit from such funds. He found that current investments focus mainly on increasing productivity, while paying less attention to environmental and social issues.

“This is all very incipient, when talking about impact investments in cocoa,” Stoian said. “I think there is potential, but investors need to be conscious of the realities and needs of smallholders, and adjust their investment schemes to these conditions.”

[Read more: Financial products should be adjusted to better meet needs of community forest enterprises]

New business models

Cocoa production. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, smallholders dominate more than 90 percent of cocoa production, but they have a weak position in the value chain. Supporting the organization of smallholders into cooperatives and expanding the role of existing ones could improve farmers’ standing, said Stoian.

“One key issue is where value is added,” he explained. “For now, it happens mostly in the importing countries, not in the producing countries. But, we do have examples from Latin America where some cooperatives have become very good at processing cocoa into diverse chocolate products and placing them in domestic markets at favorable prices.”

The Ghanaian cocoa sector might take its inspiration from Bolivia, for example, where the El Ceibo cooperative is marketing organic and Fairtrade-certified cocoa beans, butter and powder to the international market, allowing farmers to capture a higher price. The cooperative has, more importantly, managed to establish its own cocoa-processing plant, and has positioned a broad array of chocolate products in the domestic market, as a gourmet chocolate choice.

Stoian said you might imagine that Kuapa Kokooo – Ghana’s largest cocoa cooperative with around 100,000 members – and other cooperatives in West Africa could create value for their members through a similar approach.

Finally, models that completely bypass financial returns could be very attractive to farmers, while remaining interesting to investors, suggested Stoian. The Livelihoods Carbon Fund, for example, has launched a program in Côte d’Ivoire through which smallholders receive funds for agroforestry systems in return for carbon credits, he said. This allows investors to mitigate their carbon footprint elsewhere, and, according to Stoian, similar schemes are being considered by impact investors in Ghana.

[Read more: If cocoa prices have fallen, why isn’t your chocolate bar cheaper?]

The role of public policy

While impact investments have potential for smallholders, public policy might play an even greater role. To understand how Ghana is in a position to impose a minimum floor price for cocoa, one needs to know that that the farm-gate price for cocoa produced in Ghana is determined by a committee involving state-led regulators.

“The terms under which companies engage smallholders in Ghana are completely dictated by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), ” commented George Schoneveld, a senior scientist working on value chains, finance and investments for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “Change therefore starts with public policy.”

Schoneveld pointed out that COCOBOD is currently partnering with development organizations to solve important challenges, such as replacing old and disease-ridden cocoa stands with improved varieties. “They provide the planting material, replanting support and even compensation payments to enable smallholders to absorb the loss of income associated with replanting,” he said.

However, the COCOBOD-led program’s adoption rates remain low due to tenure insecurity, land scarcity, cultural barriers and other factors. This, according to Schoneveld, highlights the need to build strategic partnerships for more integrated planning and funding approaches, such as is being planned for a large landscape program on cocoa to be led by CIFOR.

Whether the answer to smallholders’ struggles is impact investment, public policy, development programs – or perhaps a combination – remains an open question. Until determined, cocoa farmers will continue to underpin the global chocolate industry, receiving not much more than a bitter aftertaste in return.

Some of the discussions on possible directions for a more equitable cocoa sector referenced above took place during the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry in May 2019. Research on the topic is continuing throughout FTA’s program activities.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.

FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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L’échange d’idées à Oslo ouvre la voie à des progrès sur la REDD+ à Varsovie

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Źródło: Ministerstwo Środowiska
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Les délégués se réunissent cette semaine au Stade national de Varsovie pour travailler sur les points en attente concernant la REDD+, ce programme soutenu par l’ONU ayant bloqué les négociations internationales sur le changement climatique l’an dernier à Doha, au Qatar.

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What’s next for Livelihood Systems? Scientists discuss agroforestry, crops and soil

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