The Government of Colombia — along with its two largest cocoa companies, Casa Luker and Compañía Nacional de Chocolates, and the National Cocoa Federation — has committed to eliminate deforestation from the country’s cocoa supply chain by 2020.
Colombia joined the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a global effort to ensure deforestation-free cocoa. The commitment will be supported by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH).
The Governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, responsible for 60 percent of the world’s cocoa, were the first two governments to sign and implement the agreement in 2017.
Now Colombia has become the first country from Latin America to pledge to uphold to the principles of the initiative, which will be called the "Cocoa, Forests and Peace Initiative," in honor of cocoa’s role in advancing the historic peace process by providing rural employment to farmers and communities previously involved in the conflict.
The Colombian cocoa sector is growing rapidly. The crop has been identified as a priority for Colombian agricultural growth, both for domestic consumption and international export.
The bulk of Colombia’s cocoa production has the characteristics of "Fino de Aroma" cocoa, a classification much-prized in the international market.
“Colombia is proud of the quality of the cocoa it produces, as well as its contribution to economic growth, rural employment, avoided deforestation and restoration of degraded land,” says Juan Guillermo Zuluaga, Colombia’s minister of agriculture and rural development. “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.”
Colombia’s rates of deforestation have increased rapidly since the conclusion of the peace process, as remote areas of the countryside — once off-limits — have seen rapid agricultural and livestock expansion, land speculation and infrastructure development.
Recent data from Global Forest Watch and the National Meteorological Institute (IDEAM) shows Colombia saw a 46 percent increase in tree cover loss in 2017, which was double the average loss from 2001-2015, but the country is taking significant steps to stop this trend.
The government cancelled a major highway project connecting Venezuela and Ecuador, destroyed several illegal roads and launched the “Green Belt” initiative to protect and restore a 9.2-million-hectare forest corridor. To date, cocoa has not been a significant driver of deforestation in Colombia, and the initiative is intended to ensure that this continues.
Colombia views cocoa as a strategic crop with which to close the forest frontier and restore degraded agricultural lands through agroforestry and silvopastoral systems comprising cocoa, livestock and trees.
The country has pledged to restore one million hectares of degraded land in its National Development Plan and under Initiative 20×20, a regional effort to change the dynamics of land degradation in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Restoration not only contributes to climate change mitigation, but also brings a wide range of benefits including rural welfare and employment, enhanced food security, soil and water conservation, biodiversity protection and climate change resilience.
The Cocoa and Forests Initiative was launched in 2017, in an effort led by the World Cocoa Foundation, the Sustainable Trade Initiative and The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit.
The initiative has coordinated closely with several organizations, including the World Resources Institute, which has provided support on deforestation monitoring in West Africa through its Global Forest Watch Pro platform and Forest Atlas technology. Colombia’s joining came about as a result of the country’s engagement in the Food and Land Use Coalition, a public-private collaborative effort to develop strategies for sustainable rural economic development.
Colombia has strong ambitions to grow its cocoa export market, with cocoa identified as one of the country’s priority crops in its "Colombia Siembra" agricultural growth strategy, as well as its engagement in the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture (whose secretariat is hosted by The Sustainable Trade Initiative — IDH — in Colombia). The lead signing company, Casa Luker, is responsible for purchasing the majority of Colombia’s national cocoa production.