Colombia works towards achieving deforestation-free cocoa production by 2020

As part of its admirable efforts to be known for highly desirable products that aren’t illegal drugs, Colombia is investing more effort into improving the eco-friendliness of its cocoa industry. An article in Mongabay reported that the Colombian government has recently promised to put a stop to deforestation linked to cacao plantations.

Colombia indicated this desire by signing up with the Cocoa and Forests Initiative. It is the third country and the first Latin American country to join this movement.

Its eco-friendly move was supported by two major players in the local cocoa industry. One is the National Cocoa Federation, an association made up of thousands of small cocoa farmers in the country. The other partner is Casa Luker, one of the leading chocolate producers in the domestic market.

“In a market characterized by a growing interest in zero-deforestation cocoa, with a positive story to tell about forests and peace, we hope Colombia’s signing up to the Cocoa and Forests Initiative will encourage greater interest and investment in the Colombian cocoa supply chain,” explained Juan Guillermo Zuluaga, the country’s minister of agriculture. (Related: Dark chocolate is good for your brain; it makes you happy AND smarter.)

Colombia promises to produce more cocoa without cutting down trees

The Cocoa and Forests Initiative is a campaign to encourage the sustainable production of cocoa without the need for deforestation. It is the brainchild of an American non-profit organization whose membership includes several global chocolate companies, a Dutch sustainable trade movement, and an international charity run by the Prince of Wales.

The initiative is also getting support from other organizations like the World Resources Institute (WRI), which is monitoring the health of forest cover throughout the world.

As signatories of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, the Colombian government and its local partners will work to prevent the further loss of forest cover to new cocoa plantations. They will follow a number of commitments, including:

  • Stopping deforestation and forest degradation
  • Encouraging the conservation of existing and future nature preserves
  • Protecting the rights of cocoa farmers, which includes cushioning the effects of cocoa on the economy and society
  • Keeping an eye on overall progress and regularly reporting their accomplishments
  • Making sure the industry is transparent and accountable
  • Supporting sustainable markets for cocoa products

Preserving Colombia’s forests and bringing peace

About one percent of the cocoa produced worldwide comes from Colombia. The national government and the private sector have combined their efforts to bolster production. Their goal is to make Colombia more competitive in the international market. They also want to take advantage of the global demand.

Furthermore, the government is offering cocoa as an alternative to planting illicit crops that are turned into illegal drugs. Cocoa could possibly help foster peace in the country, where police and military forces are fighting against the private armies financed by wealthy drug lords.

Even as Colombia is trying to increase its cocoa production, it is losing a large percentage of its forests and jungles. The WRI reported that Colombia has lost almost 1,640 square miles of tree cover in 2017.

This is a sharp increase when compared to the previous year’s already significant loss of 1,123 square kilometers. It has led the WRI to warn that Colombia is suffering from one of the most serious cases of deforestation in the world.

“We are delighted that Colombia has joined the Cocoa and Forests Initiative,” said Andrew Steer, the head of the WRI. “This is precisely the kind of public-private partnership that will help deliver on Colombia’s peace process and the sustainable development goals, said Andrew Steer, the CE.”

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