Our work in West Africa


Cocoa and deforestation


In 2018, the rate of tree cover loss in Ghana and Ivory Coast increased more than in any other region globally. One of the primary drivers of tree cover loss in this region is the expansion of cocoa production into forest reserves and other protected areas. A second smaller driver is the conversion of remaining tree cover on the farms of existing cocoa landscapes for sun-grown cocoa and food production. Without interventions to enhance the resilience of cocoa farmers, climate impacts may force them out of cocoa production near the Savanna transition zone, and further increase pressure on forests in the core cocoa zone. The adoption of additional shade-tree cover on cocoa farms (i.e., multi-purpose or native trees for on-farm restoration via agroforestry) in West Africa harbors the potential for carbon sequestration and biodiversity protection and could reduce migration of cocoa activities into forest reserves by sustainably intensifying and enhancing the climate resilience of existing cocoa farms.


The Cocoa and Forests Initiative


In response to supply chain and reputational risks from climate change and on-going deforestation, chocolate producing companies have become increasingly engaged in efforts to sustainably intensify and enhance shade-tree cover on existing cocoa farms, whilst promoting reduced deforestation in cocoa-producing landscapes. Various actors in the cocoa sector, many of which are based in Europe, have thus designed, endorsed and implemented a variety of supply chain sustainability initiatives, including the Rainforest Alliance (RFA) and UTZ certification systems and individual company pledges to help end further conversion of forest land for cocoa production under the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI).

CFI is the first collective industry commitment aimed to halt deforestation and forest degradation across cocoa value chains. A total of 35 cocoa and chocolate companies have now signed the initiative. A novel element of the multi-stakeholder initiative is the active collaboration of the producing-country governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

We aim to study under what conditions such sustainable supply chain initiatives in Ghana and Ivory Coast can lead to reduced deforestation and increased shade- and native-tree cover in cocoa producing farms and landscapes and, in turn, synergies between biodiversity protection, climate mitigation, and improved farm income and resilience.


Research approach


We tackle these questions by integrating ecological fieldwork in cocoa agroecosystems, household and supply chain interviews, supply chain and land cover mapping, regional modeling, and stakeholder workshops.

Our research in West Africa is supported by the European Research Council as well as the Horizon 2020 ERA Joint COFUND Call on “Biodiversity and Climate Change”. In the BiodivERsA collaboration, we work with colleagues at ETH Zurich, the University of Queensland Australia, the University of Zürich, CGIAR/CIAT, UC Louvain, and the Swedish Environment Institute. See more information on our full team here!


News and insights from the West Africa team


BiodivERsA grant funded

14.12.20 We are happy to announce that the project “SUSTAIN-COCOA: Sustainable sourcing policies for biodiversity protection, climate mitigation, and improved livelihoods in the cocoa sector”, coordinated by EPL PI Rachael Garrett and with participation of ETH Zurich, the University of Queensland Australia, the University of Zürich, CGIAR/CIAT, UC Louvain, and the Swedish Environment Institute, was approved for funding from Horizon 2020 ERA Joint COFUND Call on “Biodiversity and Climate Change”. It will run from 2021-2023.