Forest-positive cocoa: driving global change through 7 threatened tropical forests

Forest-positive cocoa: driving global change through 7 threatened tropical forests
Forest-positive cocoa
Driving global change through 7 threatened tropical forests

Help us deliver forest-positive cocoa in these 7 high biodiversity forest landscapes, and translate the successes into sectoral change at the global scale

Cocoa delivers net-positive impact for forests and smallholders in cocoa landscapes, which are a priority for tropical forest conservation.
We are working to end cocoa-related deforestation in seven forest frontier regions to close the gap between aspirational sector commitments and the reality on the ground.


There is a dark secret behind consuming chocolate. Big changes are needed in the sector, otherwise cocoa production will continue to be a major driver of tropical deforestation, whilst smallholders struggle to make a sustainable living.

Cocoa is driving deforestation in the tropics on a devastating scale, including some of the most globally important areas for biodiversity. Smallholders produce at least 65% of the global cocoa supply, but struggle with low productivity due to aging trees. A lack of market infrastructure, producer organisations and investment capital compounds their problem. 

The cocoa market is highly concentrated with only nine companies controlling global chocolate processing and manufacturing. This competition lowers prices, which is passed onto farmers, who receive a very small percentage of the overall price of a chocolate bar. Ninety percent of the cocoa sector has committed to moving towards zero deforestation cocoa supply chains and tackling poverty; however, progress has been slow due to the scale and complexity of the challenge.

While EU governments and companies have begun to recognise the problem, company efforts to safeguard their supply chains tend to exclude the smallholder farmers at the deforestation frontier. Instead, there is a need for holistic, landscape-scale approaches that address the underlying causes of land use change. 

Implementing sustainable cocoa production requires innovative approaches to conservation, applied at the landscape level and involving coalitions of private sector and government actors.  

Gola cocoa team with fresh harvest
Gola cocoa team in agroforestry plot


Turning cocoa from a threat to part of the forest solution means addressing the poverty and marginalisation that lead farmers to clear forest. We focus on high biodiversity forest landscapes and work directly to support local growers.

Our aim is to ensure stable land use, and to guarantee that smallholder farmers can make a living. We help community groups plan and manage their farming patterns, and develop market links for farmers’ cooperatives to increase farm incomes where it matters most – at the forest frontier.

Using these approaches in seven priority landscapes for conservation, we are already demonstrating that cocoa is having a direct, net-positive impact for forests and smallholders. We are taking this collective, on-the-ground knowledge and expertise to show the cocoa sector what forest-positive cocoa production looks like. 
Now, we want to continue to build pioneering partnerships to develop these approaches and bring them up to global scale, making sectoral commitments a reality.

We are seeking business partners to help get the unique products from these remarkable places to market. We are also seeking support from donors and philanthropists ready to support the slow and steady work of building local governance capacity and enshrining these sustainable land use models in national laws. We also need support to share the lessons from these landscape ventures to ensure that others in the sector can evolve.     

RSPB Gola chocolate bars
Shade tree and cocoa
Gola cocoa team with fresh harvest
Gola cocoa team in agroforestry plot
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Scale of opportunity
Demonstrations in tropical forest landscapes across 7 countries total about 8 million hectares of forest, more than twice the size of Belgium.
Community contribution
Work in these landscapes touches the livelihoods of over 3 million people.
Flagship biodiversity
Western chimpanzee and pygmy hippo (Sierra Leone), cross river gorilla (Nigeria), okapi (DRC).
Promotion of single origin, niche cocoa products (e.g. Gola Chocolate) that allow farmers to capture the full value of their crop. Building durable community structures that transfer control of forest lands, stimulating locally anchored forest protection.