BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 47

HOW TO: p rodu ce fO REST & FARMER - FR IEND LY COCOA 1. Start a democratic organization The Goleagorbu Cocoa Producers Organization improves cocoa quality, together, which can give them access to a better price – without encroaching forest. But until recently, 24,000 farmers in this area didn’t even know what chocolate was. In the past, their cocoa was exported in bulk commodity supply chains – meaning they had no idea where their beans ended up, let alone ever tasting the final luxury, global product (of which they would receive a disgraceful three to six per cent of a bar’s value). And not only that, but this cocoa production was not sustainable, and was contributing to a catastrophic loss of rainforest. The Upper Guinean Tropical Rainforest (which borders Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the poorest countries in the world) used to be full of wildlife. Exploitation of this lush forest has led to vast tracts being lost to intensive agriculture (including cash crops like cocoa), mining and logging, bringing serious threats to species like Pygmy Hippopotamus Choeropsis liberiensis, Western Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes verus (both Endangered) and White-necked Rockfowl Picathartes gymnocephalus (Vulnerable), not to mention the livelihoods of the people who rely on the forest. However in the largest remaining fragment, a flagship conservation effort is also found: the Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP). The park was established seven years ago in a partnership between the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (BirdLife Partner), Sierra Leone’s government, BirdLife International, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), and 140,000 Goleagorbu living in Gola’s forest edge.How could the apr-jun 2018 • birdlife protection of the Gola Rainforest become a serious business for the Goleagorbu people? One of the solutions has been found in cocoa. Is deforestation-free chocolate a myth? Across many parts of the world there has been a lack of investment in sustainable cocoa. This not only perpetuates high levels of poverty, but it also drives tropical forest loss, as farmers slash-and-burn new areas for planting more cocoa to support themselves. This, along with the development of sun-tolerant cocoa hybrids – which allow for more intensive, full-sun plantations – has driven significant tropical forest clearance in the main West African cocoa- growing countries of an estimated 2.3 million hectares between 1988 and 2007. And the ultimate driver for this is our love of chocolate. So in 2015, we started to build a cocoa business with the ability to protect the Gola Rainforest. Cocoa farmers on the forest-edge, like Gbessay and Bockerie, came together to form the Goleagorbu Cocoa Producers Organization (GCPO), the foundation of the business. It’s founded on democratic principles where farmers register, pay subscription fees and elect leaders to manage their pot of money. Together, we have been investing in forest- friendly cocoa that will bring long-term returns to the Goleagorbu people. The Gola Cocoa team have supported farmers with training in a technique called agroforestry, whereby cocoa trees are strategically planted alongside leafy shade trees which birds love, nitrogen-fixing trees for soil fertility, bushes of 2. Agroforestry (crops amongst shade trees) Optimises production in a smaller space and is better for biodiversity than traditional farming. It also provides food for the family and an alternative crop to sell locally. 3. Process cocoa in one place in community groups Access to facilities can increase efficiency, involves even farmers with small production, and brings consistency to the cocoa quality. Sims the sugars which will make the eventual chocolate so tasty. 4. Form Buying Centres in vil vW0'V'VV7FVB'Wpff6W'2G&VBF'WvVƗG66FWV7W&RVP&V( B6VFVB@vWB&WGFW"&6Rf FV"66Cp