Certification of cocoa agro-forest producers

Description A certification system for sustainable and biodiversity-friendly cocoa production can provide economic opportunities while contributing to biodiversity conservation and stabilization of deforestation frontiers. Certification takes place at the firm level; certification criteria consist of management practices which are partly landscape dependent.

What is the issue? Cocoa production has contributed to deforestation and biodiversity loss in many tropical countries. By using more sustainable farming practices such as an agro-forest system, cocoa can instead play a positive role in protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

Though cocoa agro-forests cannot match the biodiversity level of primary forests, biodiversity in cocoa agro-forests is higher than in most other agricultural landscapes.

Cocoa can be used to partially reforest degraded agricultural lands, improve habitat connectivity for wildlife and stabilize and provide livelihoods to communities living within buffer zones around protected areas.

Who is the seller? Cocoa farmers, cooperatives, companies

Who is the buyer?Companies, middlemen

Steps towards
successful business model
  • Identification of ‘intact cocoa landscape’ (proposed by organization or coalition of farmers);
  • For each landscape, site-level certification criteria are determined by a committee of local stakeholders with the advice of a global steering committee;
  • In each landscape, farmers produce cocoa according to the criteria;
  • Audit by trained local organizations, overseen by international steering committee;
  • Successfully audited farms can sell produce as certified ‘biodiversity-friendly cocoa’.
What can Banks do?
  • Simplify lending requirements for sustainable entrepreneurs/farmers or offer microfinance;
  • Investors can favor certified companies/farmers.
What can the private sector do?
  • Engage in long term sub-contracting arrangements with certified farmers/companies;
  • Adopt green procurement practices to buy certified cocoa only.
What can the Government do? National:
  • Ensure land tenure and property rights are addressed;
  • Ensure capacity and authority of institutions for sustainable land management;
  • Ensure protected area management does not conflict with restoration initiatives;
  • Ensure agricultural and macroeconomic policies encourage biodiversity-friendly farming;
  • Ensure agricultural R&D and extension services have capacity to promote.
  • Favour (certified) agro-forestry initiatives for ecosystem restoration when providing concessions.
Contribution to…
  • Securing natural capital: Local and sustainable agro-forestry practices ensure ecosystems and biodiversity are sustained;
  • Poverty reduction: Enhances income, provides higher profit margin than uncertified cocoa.
  • Economic growth: Strengthens and diversifies local economy; greater proportion of the economic benefit is retained in the local communities.
  • Climate change: Contributes to climate change mitigation by providing an alternative income source (rather than livelihoods based on deforestation and/or forest degradation); enhances/ maintains biodiversity which builds resilience against the impacts of climate change.