IVORY COAST – Nestlé, one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, has embarked on a transformative journey to restore forests and empower local communities in Ivory Coast.

This significant initiative aims to address the environmental challenges associated with cocoa production while creating a positive impact on the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families.

The protection and restoration of the classified Cavally Forest initiative is being undertaken through a collaboration between the Swiss Federal Administration (SECO), the Ivorian Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF), Nestlé, Touton, and Cocoasource as well as Earthworm Foundation (EF).

With a total investment of CHF 4 million, equivalent to XOF 2.7 billion, this new partnership goes beyond preserving the classified Cavally Forest.

It also aims to strengthen the resilience of the communities in the forest’s peripheral zone and improve the transparency and traceability of the cocoa and rubber supply chain.

Ivory Coast is renowned for being the largest producer of cocoa globally, with the industry forming the backbone of the country’s economy.

However, years of cocoa farming expansion have taken a toll on its pristine forests, leading to severe deforestation and habitat destruction for wildlife. This raised concerns about the sustainability of cocoa production and its impact on the environment and local communities.

Ivory Coast has lost most of its forest cover over the last 60 years. Between 1960 and 2021, the area of its forests shrunk from 16 million to 2.97 million hectares. This loss was caused by small-scale farming.

The classified Cavally Forest is one of the last remaining dense forests in the Ivory Coast and is a primary biodiversity spot threatened by deforestation.

In response to these challenges, Nestlé took a proactive approach by partnering with various stakeholders, including governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations, and local communities, to develop a comprehensive strategy for restoring forests and promoting sustainable cocoa farming practices.

The new collaboration follows in the footsteps of the initial, three-year project funded by Nestlé, which will run until the end of June 2023.

During its first phase, the Cavally project led to a significant reduction in deforestation, the natural regeneration of 7 000 hectares, and the reforestation of almost 1 500 hectares.

In addition, greater economic and social resilience has been observed within local communities, with more than 1 400 people benefiting financially from the project.

“During the first phase of the Cavally Forest regeneration project, we learned that there are various sides to the problem of deforestation in the area,” said Bastien Sachet, CEO of the Earthworm Foundation, the organization leading the implementation of the project.

“It is difficult to control such a large area. And the forest is attractive in terms of fertility and access to land for populations that are facing immense economic challenges. To combat deforestation and tackle the root causes of the problem, a collective approach based on creating value for producers and rural communities is required.”

Combating cocoa-related deforestation is also a priority for Switzerland, which has pledged to increase its investments in the primary sourcing regions.

Monica Rubiolo, Head of Trade Promotion at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) explained that the Swiss government is actively involved in the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa (SWISSCO).

Through the financial support for specific projects, it aims to actively contribute towards the creation of more sustainable supply chains, in close collaboration with the private sector, civil society, and governments in the producer countries.

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