SWITZERLAND – Barry Callebaut, a major cocoa processor and chocolate manufacturer, is scaling up its efforts to foster sustainable cocoa production by providdng millions of non-cocoa seedlings to farmers in the cocoa growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador and Indonesia.

In Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, the chocolate supplier is on track to distribute close to one million seedlings in 2021, with species including cocoa, teak, mahogany, sugar palm, coconut and mandarin.

To ensure sustainability of its program, Barry Callebaut has stocked its nurseries with both cocoa and non-cocoa seedlings.

“Biodiversity is a key driver to continue our progress towards becoming carbon and forest positive,” says Taryn Ridley, external affairs manager of corporate communication at Barry Callebaut.

“By reducing our carbon footprint and achieving a deforestation-free supply chain, we will help to preserve ecosystems and increase the long-term productivity of cocoa in environmentally suitable areas.”

The company notes that the efforts not only improve the sustainability profile of cocoa growing but also results in higher yields for farmers.

“Highly biodiverse cocoa farms have been shown to be drought-, disease- and pest-resilient, while producing higher yields,” Barry said in a statement.

This is a major boost to farmers who are experiencing declining cocoa yields caused by a number of issues including climate change, poor soil, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and a lack of natural inputs, such as shade and pollinators.

In support of this initiative, Barry Callebaut is working closely with farmers to provide technical assistance and farm diagnostics.

“For example, we offer access to high-quality seedlings and support with the selection of non-cocoa trees, and importantly, assistance to increase the survival of the non-cocoa tree species,” explains Ridley.

Barry’s move towards biodiversity will bolster its Forever Chocolate plan to make sustainable chocolate the norm as it works towards achieving carbon- and forest-positive by 2025.

Among its strategies toward this target, the company is promoting the use of biochar, which is known as “agriculture’s black gold” and made from agricultural waste, such as weeds, leaves and cocoa pods.

Biochar can be used as a natural fertilizer to improve soil quality. Importantly, biochar can enhance living soils and create carbon sinks.

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