In total, the researchers found, cocoa was being grown on more than 1.5m hectares of protected areas across the two countries, including nearly 14% of Ivory Coast’s protected areas and 5% of Ghana’s. In some classified forest or forest reserve areas, close to four-fifths of land had been cleared to grow cocoa.
“The single most significant driver of deforestation in cocoa production is poverty,” said Kwame Osei, the country director for Ghana and Nigeria for the Rainforest Alliance, which was not involved in the research. “Cocoa farmers in west Africa receive a mere 6% of a chocolate bar’s retail price. They are on the losing end of the supply chain, too, bearing the brunt of chronically low prices and with few opportunities to negotiate.
“Cocoa farmers are also on the front lines of the climate crisis, which leaves them vulnerable to drought, pests, and diseases that can decimate a harvest. In turn, land degradation often leads to the transformation of forest areas, including protected areas, into new cocoa plantations.”