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AGROFORESTRY IN THE AMAZON: INCENTIVISING COCOA FARMERS TO PROTECT AND RESTORE FOREST

Olam Cocoa is working in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Mondelēz International, Partnerships for Forests and Instituto Humanize, to halt deforestation and restore degraded land in the Brazilian state of Pará, which has the country’s highest rate of deforestation.

In the last 5 years, 1.2 million hectares of forest have been lost in Pará, mainly due to cattle ranching. The project promotes cocoa agroforestry as a more profitable alternative to small scale cattle farming, and which could contribute to the regeneration of 130,000 ha of pastureland. As cocoa is native to the Amazon and thrives in the shade of bananas, hardwoods and other trees, establishing cocoa plantations alongside other fruits creates a viable economic alternative for small farmers and ranchers who currently depend on converting forest to pastureland.

The project uses a multi-stakeholder agroforestry restoration model, delivering a triple positive impact by protecting and regenerating the local landscape, improving agricultural practices, and boosting economic opportunities for local farmers.

However cattle ranching and cocoa farming are very different. The project established a Technical Assistance Hub to support the transition from cattle ranching to cocoa agroforestry, providing training, access to rural credit and a seed supply chain to help farmers cultivate a range of alternative tree crops on their cocoa farms.  The Hub offers field days and training so farmers can find out what support is available to them and learn about their obligations under the Forest Code, using cocoa agroforestry to catalyse the restoration of degraded land and restoring riverine lands covering a total land area of 25,000 hectares. 

Delivering a transformative impact

Protecting and regenerating landscapes

Addressing historical deforestation is as important as halting forest loss.  Since the project launched in 2019, it has supported the planting of 436 hectares of cocoa agroforestry systems and restored 110 hectares of degraded land, benefiting hundreds of families in south-eastern Pará. Together with our partners we want to create a network of cocoa-based agroforestry supply chains in Pará and expand to 1,250 hectares by 2022.

Supporting farmers to develop sustainable farming practices

Combining environmental benefits  with an economically viable livelihood model, farmers can become agents of positive change. As well as enabling farmers to diversify their crops and protect the landscape, the Hub works with banks to simplify credit application procedures and provides farmers with credit application and financial management training. Over and above this, farmers can receive a price premium for their cocoa in exchange for zero deforestation and restoration commitments. Providing farmers with the tools and support needed to cultivate native tree species on their cocoa farms and to maximise productivity will ultimately guarantee a better income for them and their families.

Boosting economic opportunities for farming communities

As Brazil is one of the world’s largest chocolate consumers, cocoa agroforestry provides an opportunity for farmers and communities to prosper.  Today, over 250 families receive technical assistance and training in agroforestry best practice, cocoa production and the restoration of degraded areas. These families have diversified their plantations and been able to increase their cocoa productivity two or three times over.  The project also promotes participation of women, and our partners are working to rollout gender-focused financial management training.  Over the past year, the families assisted by the project have started selling to Olam Cocoa, boosting both the local economy and the quality of life of the cocoa producers.

This project has the potential to transform agricultural practices and landscape management in a globally important deforestation frontier. The model is replicable to more farmers and more cocoa regions, and offers an opportunity to deliver transformative conservation, economic and social outcomes at scale.