Mighty Earth work on chocolate listed as one of the Guardian's "Things that went right in 2017"


Amid a sometimes tumultuous year for the environment, there were also major climate achievements. Mighty Earth’s work in the chocolate industry was listed as one of the Guardian’s “Things that went right in 2017” alongside the discovery of an underground ocean on a moon of Saturn, a 3.7% rate of global economic growth, and the election of France’s Emmanuel Macron. Our investigation into deforestation in national parks and other protected areas in West Africa prompted swift action from the entire chocolate industry and West African governments to commit to ending deforestation for cocoa in the entire region. Next year’s plan- secure this commitment for forests around the world.

“But the big, bold headlines tell only half the story – perhaps not even that much. Away from the hysteria of daily news, it is possible to discern progress, joy, breakthroughs and that rarest commodity of all: optimism.

In Ghana and the Ivory Coast, governments are drawing up plans to prevent the clearance of forests for cocoa plantations after Mighty Earth campaigners exposed the links between illegal deforestation and the chocolate produced by Mars, Hershey’s, Nestlé and other global brands.”

Today’s Big Chocolate Industry Announcement – What It Means


Statement of Etelle Higonnet, Mighty Earth Africa Director

BONN, Germany, November 16- After a bitter past, the chocolate industry is off to a sweet new start when it comes to protecting forests, as it agreed today to end deforestation for cocoa in West Africa.

By promising to end forest destruction and restore previously destroyed areas, there’s finally new hope for a living future for the wildlife of West Africa.

This framework comes after Mighty Earth’s investigation into the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which found that cocoa production is driving massive deforestation and environmental destruction, including inside protected areas like national parks and in some of the last chimpanzee and forest elephant habitat in West Africa.

Today's announcement represents the start of this work, not its end. More than 90 percent of Ivory Coast’s forests are already gone, and 7,000 square kilometers of Ghana’s forests were cleared between 2001 and 2014. Elephants, chimpanzees and some spectacular but little known species of monkeys have been pushed by the chocolate industry into tiny remnant

patches. There is a lot of work indeed to be done before consumers can feel good again about consuming some of their favorite chocolate brands.  But consumers and West Africans can at least know that the chocolate industry and their governments are finally setting about the task in a serious way.


Today’s pact is a signature accomplishment for a true forest hero, the Prince of Wales. Prince Charles’ longstanding and profound commitment to rainforest conservation has translated into an initiative that may be remembered years from now as the moment West Africa’s forests began to grow back.

Of course, this breakthrough was a team effort. A plan of this ambition would simply not have been possible without the involvement of the Ghanaian and Ivorian governments, the steadfast labors and creativity of IDH, the sustainable trade initiative, and the World Cocoa Foundation.  The chocolate industry heard the voices of hundreds of thousands of consumers around the world who want to be able to feel good about their guilty pleasure. West African governments are listening to their citizens who want their natural heritage protected and restored. Thank you to the Arcus Foundation whose support made this work possible.

These good intentions must now translate into real action on the ground on a rapid timeline. In particular, the highly profitable companies that have sourced cocoa from national parks and protected areas for years need to make a sizable financial contribution to restoring these precious areas. This is an 100 billion dollar a year industry and the cost per company of doing the right thing would be a small fraction of a percent of their annual revenue. We’ll be watching to make sure this happens.

As an immediate next step, the chocolate industry must announce that it will extend its commitment to No Deforestation Cocoa to chocolate production around the world. It’s great that the industry is taking steps to protect chimpanzee habitat in Ivory Coast, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to eat a chocolate bar that killed an orangutan in Indonesia or a sloth in Peru.

Finally, the widespread use of pesticides in the cocoa industry has significantly impaired waterways, and threatened the health of local communities. The industry should reinforce its commitment to its workers and the communities who live near cocoa by banning hazardous pesticides, and moving quickly toward organic, shade-grown systems.

Guest Post: Young Conservationist’s Response to Mighty’s Chocolate Investigation


I’m Hannah and I’m 10 years old. I live in Manchester, England. And here is how Mighty Earth inspired me to try and spread the word.

I read a brief newspaper article that mentioned how chocolate is damaging the environment and that Mighty Earth had done a report on the matter. So being a budding conservationist and nature lover I went onto Mighty Earth’s website to find out more. What l read there horrified me. Almost all major chocolate companies were sourcing their chocolate illegally from places where there used to be rain forests, therefore encouraging more forests to be cut down. It is threatening countless species and needs to stop!

I really wanted  to help so I emailed Mighty Earth to ask. They advised me to :

  1. To try to by organic and fair trade chocolate.
  2. Ask at cafes and shops where their chocolate has come from; even if they don’t know it makes them think.
  3. Ask at my school and see if we can do a project on the matter.

I was super excited. I have told my friends at school and my sister (Alice); they are all really interested and enthusiastic. My class has researched the chocolate industry and made posters in computing time. I have told friends and family at various events and informed people in many other ways. I really feel like I’ve made a difference and truly hope that by writing this blog I will spread the word and inspire you to get involved.


Six Maps that Explain the Ivory Coast Cocoa Crisis

Six Maps that Explain the Ivory Coast Cocoa Crisis

Mighty partnered with MapHubs to map deforestation linked to Cocoa in the Ivory Coast. Leo Bottrill and Kris Carle, MapHubs’ Founders, explain through six maps how this was possible

The best way to describe mapping Ivory Coast deforestation is a club sandwich. The ubiquitous double decker sandwich requires piling layers, turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato on top of each other to a precarious height, which is held in place by a cocktail stick.


Like the unwieldy club sandwich, we assembled multiple map layers to interpret the scale and causes of deforestation in the Ivory Coast. To make managing multiple datasets and maps easy, we used MapHubs - our simple map making and data management technology - which, like the proverbial cocktail stick, keeps everything in its place.


Through six maps below, here are some insights into how cocoa has impacted the Ivory Coast’s forests.


Map 1 - Ivory Coast Deforestation in 1990, 2000, and 2015

We obtained the three datasets of forest loss in the Ivory Coast in 1990, 2000, and 2015 from the National Bureau of Technical Studies (BNETD). The exact methodology was not provided, but it appears to be NASA Landsat data. By computing the area of each pixel of the image, we obtained statistics for the entire country. As of 2015, we found that 3.7% of Ivory Coast’s land area remains forest.


We then overlaid this with protected areas and summarized the values inside each protected area polygon. This allowed us to rank the protected areas by their loss for each time range, total remaining forests, and percentage of remaining forest.

We also used Tree Cover loss data from University of Maryland’s Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) Lab ( This dataset has tree cover canopy density for the year 2000, and tree cover loss for each year between 2000 and 2015. For this dataset we quantified the tree cover loss for each year based on the canopy density using increments of 10 between 20% and 80%. By removing these lost areas from the 2000 baseline and summarizing what was left at each tree canopy density interval, we found a similar result of 3.6% forest remaining, when using the 70% tree canopy density threshold. As the table above illustrates, the Ivory Coast’s forest loss spiked considerably after 2011.


The table below provides a ranking of the Ivorian parks: which have the highest % age of forest left, and which have the highest volume of forest left.


Map 2 - Deforestation inside Peko National Park

We took advantage a recent advance in satellite technology called “nano satellites”, which are tiny shoebox-sized satellites that fly in constellations around the earth. The advantage of nano satellites is they image the entire planet every day . This greatly increases the odds of obtaining a cloud-free image in the notoriously cloudy tropical rainforest. Planet (, a nano satellite company, generously gave Mighty Earth access to their imagery archive for the Ivory Coast. We used Planet’s imagery and their handy comparison tool to illustrate how Peko National Park was further deforested by encroaching cocoa growers between December 2015 and January 2017.


Map 3 - Mapping Cocoa in Scio Forest Reserve

When zoomed in closer, the impact of cocoa within the Ivory Coast’s protect areas becomes more apparent. This map shows deforestation inside Scio Forest Reserve caused predominantly by cocoa growers. Very little forest remains in the reserve.


Map 4 - Cocoa roads

To verify whether Scio had been converted for cocoa production, we used OpenStreetMap to map roads and settlements inside the park. DigitalGlobe - a satellite company - have made their premium high resolution base map available for tracing in OpenStreetMap. With this incredible imagery, we were able to map both the road network and human settlements throughout Scio.

Example low resolution imagery
Same area with DigitalGlobe










We imported the road and settlement data into MapHubs. We then overlaid with park boundaries and add features such as streams and rivers. Finally, we used recent Planet imagery to identify cocoa growing areas and map cocoa households as well as the remaining forest areas. The resulting map illustrates that Scio’s forest has been almost completely converted to cocoa production with remnant forest found along the waterways and in small isolated patches.


Map 5 - Time Lapse Map for Deforestation

This gif illustrates how the pattern of deforestation inside Scio has been repeated across the Ivory Coast’s protected area system. Using GLAD Tree Cover Loss data, we animated a time series to illustrate deforestation from 2000 to 2014. The time series illustrates that during this period, deforestation largely occurred within the remaining forest reserves and national parks - the only areas left in the Ivory Coast with large stands of natural forest. Note the purple area is chimpanzee habitat, which along with southwest Ghana constitute some of the largest and last remaining chimpanzee habitats in West Africa.


Map 6 - Deforestation across West Africa

Cacao being a major driver of forest loss across West Africa with the Ivory Coast and Ghana that are the world’s #1 and #2 cacao producers have been particularly hard hit, notably in protected areas where the best quality forest remains. The bigger question is where next? As the table above illustrates, Liberia’s forests still remain largely intact but will likely come under increasing pressure from cocoa and other commodities such as oil palm.





Some final thoughts  

Cocoa supply chains can be mapping to the farm level


From our experience making these maps, it’s feasible to map all of the cocoa growing areas including settlements, households, and roads. This could largely be accomplished with OpenStreetMap using DigitalGlobe imagery. We also wrote an algorithm that can identify cocoa households, which should speed up the mapping process.


Once mapped, this data would provide a basis for building deforestation-free cocoa supply chains. All cocoa associations would need to provide GPS points for all member locations, which most currently don’t. This could then be verified from a national spatial database of households.


This would be relatively easy, fast, and inexpensive to do and could potentially be replicated in other forest countries.


Monitoring Forests is about to get a lot easier.

With support from Mighty, we are building a rapid response forest alert system, which will provide regular forest monitoring. Using GLAD Alerts from the University of Maryland coupled with Planet imagery, the tool will allow Mighty to monitor hundreds of different locations for deforestation. Mighty and their partners will receive regular PDF reports documenting deforestation and rankings We plan to make this application to other be used by government agencies, cocoa growers and purchasers, and watchdog organizations. Our goal is to make forest monitoring effective, simple, affordable to any group wishing tackling deforestation. If you would like more information, please contact us here.


MapHubs is a pretty handy cocktail stick for your maps


On just this one project, we’ve used over 50 map layers and made 25 interactive maps. When combined with other Mighty campaigns, we are talking a lot of maps and data layers, which can be complicated to maintain.


Mighty use MapHubs Pro to store and manage all of their map layers and interactive maps, which are easily found by keyword and grouped according to campaigns. While the platform is private, Mighty can publish a map such as this one publicly on their website or in social media:


If you are interested in learning more about MapHubs Pro visit our site at or drop us a line at [email protected].



La destruction de parcs nationaux par l’industrie du chocolat révélée par une enquête


Sept 2017

La culture du cacao en Côte d’Ivoire et au Ghana est responsable de la disparition de vastes étendues boisées, et met en péril l’habitat des chimpanzés et des éléphants

WASHINGTON DC. — Une nouvelle enquête menée par Mighty Earth et intitulée L’amère déforestation du chocolat, révèle qu’une quantité importante du cacao avec lequel Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, Godiva et d’autres grandes marques fabriquent leur chocolat est cultivée illégalement dans des parcs nationaux et des aires protégées en Côte d’Ivoire et au Ghana. Ces deux pays sont les plus grands producteurs de cacao au monde.

Ce rapport démontre que plusieurs parcs nationaux et aires protégées ont vu 90 % de leur surface, voire davantage, convertie en cultures de cacao, alors que les forêts denses ne recouvrent plus que 4 % de la Côte d’Ivoire. Le laxisme des chocolatiers en matière d’approvisionnement a également entraîné une déforestation massive au Ghana. En Côte d’Ivoire, la déforestation a chassé les chimpanzés qui vivent aujourd’hui dans des petites poches de forêts. Ce phénomène a aussi contribué à réduire drastiquement la population d’éléphants à 200-400 spécimens, quand ce pays pouvait s’enorgueillir jadis d’en compter plusieurs dizaines de milliers.

Trois sociétés, Cargill, Olam et Barry Callebaut, contrôlent à elles seules près de la moitié du marché mondial du cacao. L’enquête de Mighty Earth a remonté la filière du cacao, des cultivateurs installés dans les parcs nationaux aux intermédiaires et jusqu’aux négociants qui vendent ensuite ce cacao en Europe et aux États-Unis, là où les grandes sociétés de chocolaterie le transforment en tablettes, barres, pâtes à tartiner et autres en-cas.

« Le degré d’implication de marques célèbres de chocolat comme Mars dans la destruction des parcs nationaux et des aires protégées est choquant », a déclaré Etelle Higonnet, Directrice juridique et Directrice de campagne pour Mighty Earth. « Ces sociétés doivent immédiatement prendre des mesures fortes pour mettre un terme une bonne fois pour toutes à la déforestation, et remédier aux dégâts causés par le passé. »

Avec des forêts d’Afrique de l’Ouest au bord de l’épuisement, le secteur du chocolat a commencé à étendre son modèle non durable à d’autres régions tropicales humides comme l’Amazonie péruvienne, le bassin du Congo et les forêts paradisiaques d’Asie du Sud-Est.


« Nous espérons que ces autres pays prendront conscience des méfaits de l’industrie du chocolat en Côte d’Ivoire, et qu’ils empêcheront ses acteurs de répéter ailleurs leurs mauvaises pratiques », poursuit Etelle Higonnet. 

« Les anciennes forêts de notre nation étaient autrefois un paradis pour la faune comme les chimpanzés, les léopards, les hippopotames, et les éléphants. Aujourd’hui, elles sont fortement dégradées et déboisées, et sont sur le point de disparaître », a déclaré SIGNO Kouamé Soulago Fernand, Secrétaire général du ROSCIDET, un réseau d’ONG ivoiriennes spécialisées dans la protection de l’environnement et dans le développement durable.

« Cette déforestation est due principalement à la culture du cacao. Or, nous devons parvenir à développer une agriculture respectueuse des forêts et qui profite réellement aux communautés et à l’économie du pays. Les grands groupes chocolatiers doivent soutenir les actions du gouvernement en ce sens à la fois financièrement et sur un plan technologique. »

L’enquête a révélé que d’importants campements de cultivateurs de cacao, qui comptent parfois de dizaines de milliers d’habitants, se sont installés dans l’enceinte même d’aires protégées comme des parcs nationaux. Nous avons pu démontrer que des négociants achetaient ouvertement ces fèves cultivées illégalement pour les vendre ensuite aux plus grands chocolatiers du monde. Malgré les nombreuses initiatives publiques en matière de développement durable lancées par ces derniers, ces pratiques se sont perpétuées sans réel changement.

« L’industrie du cacao poursuit son exploitation des forêts et des communautés d’Afrique de l’Ouest pour un cacao vendu pour une bouchée de pain », a déclaré Sindou BAMBA, Coordinateur général de Regroupement des acteurs ivoiriens des droits humains (RAIDH). « Mais ce cacao bon marché coûte en revanche fort cher à la Côte d’Ivoire en matière de déforestation et d’abus des droits humains. Il est grand temps que ce secteur achète le cacao à un prix décent aux agriculteurs et qu’il mette en œuvre des pratiques de production durables afin d’assurer la résilience des écosystèmes locaux, car nous finirons tous par payer tôt ou tard le prix de la destruction de ces forêts. »

Les cultivateurs de cacao en Côte d’Ivoire et au Ghana gagnent en moyenne moins de 0,82 $ par jour et travaillent souvent de longues heures dans des conditions dangereuses. Le travail des enfants reste encore une pratique courante pour ce secteur, malgré les promesses de nombreux chocolatiers d’éliminer cette pratique.

Ce rapport arrive à point nommé pour le secteur du chocolat qui doit saisir cette occasion pour prendre de véritables mesures orientées vers un futur plus responsable sur le plan environnemental. Au début de cette année, le Prince Charles a convoqué les PDG et hauts dirigeants de 34 grandes entreprises du secteur du chocolat pour les exhorter à agir contre la déforestation. Ces entreprises ont promis de présenter un plan concret en novembre, à l’occasion du prochain sommet sur le climat à Bonn. 

« Ce rapport montre que le secteur du chocolat proclame depuis longtemps des engagements en matière de développement durable, mais que cela ne l’a pas empêché de se comporter de manière indigne, a déclaré Etelle Higonnet. Le Prince Charles est parvenu à réunir les acteurs de ce secteur autour d’une table afin qu’ils réfléchissent enfin à des actions concrètes, et a créé ainsi une occasion unique pour impulser un changement possible. »


À propos de Mighty Earth

 Migthy Earth est une organisation internationale de campagnes environnementales qui s’attache à la protection des forêts, à la conservation des océans, et se préoccupe du changement climatique. Nous travaillons en Afrique, en Asie du Sud-Est, en Amérique latine et en Amérique du Nord pour mener des actions à grande échelle en faveur d’une agriculture responsable qui respecte les écosystèmes naturels, la vie sauvage, l’eau et les droits des communautés locales. L’équipe mondiale de Mighty Earth a joué un rôle décisif en persuadant les plus grandes entreprises mondiales de l’agroalimentaire d’améliorer drastiquement leurs politiques et leurs pratiques environnementales et sociales.

Vous trouverez plus d’information au sujet de Mighty Earth sur :


Read the full report here.

Investigation Links Chocolate to Destruction of National Parks


Cocoa production in Ivory Coast and Ghana responsible for the owoss of extensive forested areas, endangered chimpanzee and elephant habitat

WASHINGTON D.C.– A new investigation by Mighty Earth, “Chocolate’s Dark Secret,” finds that a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally in national parks and other protected areas in Ivory Coast and Ghana. The countries are the world’s two largest cocoa producers.

The report documents how in several national parks and other protected areas, 90% or more of the land mass has been converted to cocoa. Less than four percent of Ivory Coast remains densely forested, and the chocolate companies’ laissez-faire approach to sourcing has driven extensive deforestation in Ghana as well. In Ivory Coast, deforestation has pushed chimpanzees into just a few small pockets, and reduced the country’s elephant population from several hundred thousand to about 200-400.

About half of the world cocoa market is controlled by just three companies: Cargill, Olam, and Barry Callebaut. The investigation traced how cocoa makes its way from growers in national parks, through middlemen, to these traders, who then sell it onto Europe and the United States where the world’s largest chocolate companies make it into truffles, bars, syrups, and myriad other chocolate treats.

“The extent to which big chocolate brands like Mars are linked to destruction of national parks and protected areas is shocking,” said Etelle Higonnet, Mighty Earth Campaign and Legal Director. “These companies need to take immediate action to end deforestation once and for all, and remediate past damage.”  

With West Africa’s forests nearing exhaustion, the chocolate industry has begun to bring its model to other rainforest regions like the Peruvian Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia’s Paradise Forests.

“The ancient forests of our nation, once a paradise for wildlife like chimpanzees, leopards, hippopotamus, and elephants, have been degraded and deforested to the point that they’re almost entirely gone. This deforestation is due principally to the cultivation of cocoa. Our country has become dependent on a cocoa industry that destroys forests and the whole range of ecosystem services they offer the country. We must achieve a sustainable cocoa industry that respects forests and that actually benefits communities and the country’s economy. The big chocolate companies must make financial and technical contributions to support the government’s conservation efforts,” said SIGNO Kouamé Soulago Fernand, General Secretary ROSCIDET, a network of Ivorian NGOs specializing in environmental protection and sustainable development.

Our investigators found large villages of cocoa growers, in some cases consisting of tens of thousands of inhabitants, inside protected areas like national parks. We documented traders openly purchasing cocoa beans grown illegally inside these areas, which would then go on to be sold to most of the world’s largest chocolate companies. Despite many chocolate companies’ public sustainability initiatives, these practices have continued without any real change.

“The cocoa industry continues to exploit both forests and communities of West Africa for cocoa that is sold for large quantities of cheap, environmentally unsustainable cocoa beans. The low price of cocoa is costing us dearly here in Côte d’Ivoire in terms of deforestation and abuses of human rights. It is high time for the industry to start paying growers a living wage and to implement sustainable production practices to ensure the resilience of local ecosystems, because without forests we will all suffer and pay sooner or later,” said Sindou Bamba, General Coordinator of the Coalition of Ivorian Human Rights Actors (RAIDH).

On average, cocoa growers in Ivory Coast and Ghana are paid less than 80 cents (USD) per day and often work in dangerous conditions with long hours. Child labor is still prevalent throughout the industry, despite pledges by many chocolate companies to eliminate the practice.

The report comes at a time of unique opportunity for the chocolate industry to take real action for a more environmentally responsible future. Earlier this year, Prince Charles convened CEOs and senior leadership of 34 chocolate industry companies to begin to urge them to act on deforestation. The companies pledged to come up with a concrete plan by November’s climate summit in Bonn.

“This report shows that the chocolate industry’s long history of heralding their own commitment to sustainability hasn’t stopped them from engaging in egregious behavior,” said Higonnet. “Prince Charles has managed however to get the industry to finally start talking about doing something real, creating a unique moment in which change is possible.”


About Mighty Earth

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change. We work in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America to drive large-scale action towards environmentally responsible agriculture that protects native ecosystems, wildlife, and water, and respects local community rights. Mighty Earth’s global team has played a decisive role in persuading the world’s largest food and agriculture companies to dramatically improve their environmental and social policies and practices. More information on Mighty Earth can be found at

Read the full report here.

Chocolate's Dark Secret: Behind the Scenes in Côte D'Ivoire

 An “Open Secret:” Illegal Ivorian Cocoa

Mighty Earth’s field investigation in Côte d’Ivoire reveals how cocoa is driving illegal deforestation in the nation’s protected areas. Our findings expose how environmental destruction is an “open secret” throughout the Ivorian cocoa supply chain, from growers through traders, chocolate companies and the Ivorian government.

In the early morning light, as we headed into Scio, we found a recently cleared plot of land, with just a handful of beautiful old trees left, towering along the perimeter and evoking the majestic forest that once flourished here. More than 80% of the country’s forests disappeared from 1960-2010, according to the EU and Ivorian Forestry Ministry.


Ivorian protected areas we visited- like this one, Scio – had little original forest left. Cocoa farmers systematically encroach on parks, clear underbrush, plant cocoa, and light fires at the roots of ancient giants to kill them so that the denuded canopy no longer blocks sun for cocoa plantations. What’s left behind are giant skeleton trees in a sea of cocoa.

Cocoa production has endangered wildlife by taking over many of the rainforests of Côte d’Ivoire, a country once internationally known as a biodiversity gem in West Africa’s Guinean Forest Region and a nation of great biological richness, species diversity, and endemism. Former poachers that Mighty interviewed in one protected area said that they had virtually stopped poaching, since there were hardly any animals left to kill.

Red Colobus Monkey, Cote D'Ivoire, Scott McGraw


Deforestation is happening in the largest remaining chimpanzee habitats in Côte d’Ivoire. A recent study on the impact of cocoa production for primate populations in protected areas found that 13 of 23 protected areas surveyed had lost their entire primate populations.

Several interviewees in the protected area of Goin Debe explained that the road in the forest used to be better during the logging boom days, as the loggers kept the road in good condition. Road maintenance declined because nearly all the trees were cleared, so there was hardly any logging left to do and the loggers stopped taking care of the roads.

Farmers burn large trees to make room for cocoa, leaving “skeleton” forests behind of just the trunks. However, when one of the few remaining hardwood trees is deemed large and valuable enough, and is close enough to a road that a truck can come and get it out, farmers will sometimes strike deals with loggers. These massive logs by the side of the road are waiting for a truck to remove them.

Predatory logging companies go into decimated protected forests and harvest the last few remaining large hardwoods. This truck is driving alongside the edge of Goin Debe forest reserve, which Mighty Earth visited and found to be almost entirely destroyed for cocoa.

Loggers bring scavenged timber to a facility in the nearby town of Duekoue, where the logs are cut into lumber and stacked alongside the road.

The problem of deforestation cocoa is a massive one for Côte d’Ivoire. Cocoa is believed to be the number one driver of deforestation in the country. Much of the cocoa exported out of Côte d’Ivoire comes from inside national parks and forest reserves.

We came across this Cargill sign at dawn, showing Rainforest Alliance and Utz Certification, at the edge of the Scio forest reserve in Western Cote d’Ivoire.  Ten minutes away, inside Scio, we found complete environmental devastation. Cocoa had replaced what was once a lush tropical rainforest.

While top chocolate companies and their executives and investors make sizable profits, they pay very low wages and rely on extensive child labor. 

Mighty Earth visited Mount Peko National Park – which means “mountain of hyenas” in the local Gueré language. Forest destruction there was largely driven by cocoa expansion, with 10,000 tonnes worth over $28 million produced annually from the park and an estimated 30,000 illegal inhabitants. The Ivorian government recently cracked down against cocoa-driven deforestation by expelling cocoa farmers, but groups like Human Rights Watch documented extortion and physical abuse by forest conservation authorities in forest evictions. Mighty Earth saw that after the recent crackdown, the park had once again filled back up with cocoa smallholders, like the men in this video.



Mighty’s satellite mapping shows how deforestation, largely driven by cocoa production, has expanded across Western Cote d’Ivoire. In this map, you can see how cocoa production is expanding into protected areas, as the rest of the nation’s forest has largely been cleared already.

Agricultural production inside protected areas is illegal. Yet, cocoa cultivation and drying, which you see in this video, was happening in broad daylight, even meters from the main roads through the forests.

Cocoa production has grown so out of control that entire towns and villages have sprung up in protected areas. Marahoué Park and Mont Péko Park each contain an illegal population of around 30,000 people. Their presence is an open secret, with homes and even public schools, official health centers, and occasionally cell phone towers, in plain sight of government authorities who have turned a blind eye to or encouraged encroachment into protected areas for decades.



We met cocoa farmers who spoke of their suffering and explained the economic hardships they’ve faced since cocoa prices plummeted by over 30% this past year. Many told us that it has been the worst financial year for them in living memory.


Ian Jones Photography

After a meeting convened by Prince Charles, 34 of the world’s biggest chocolate companies committed to ending deforestation for chocolate. However, it remains to be seen if these companies will take true leadership in putting an end to this destruction. Africa’s forests cannot wait much longer for these commitments to turn into action.




The Ivorian government has made many commitments at the highest level around ending deforestation. Although promises on paper have yet to translate into a reality of forest protection, there is room for optimism that the Ivorian government would support robust industry action this year to save forests. Far beyond Côte d’Ivoire, from the Americas to Asia, there are other forests which can also be saved if the cocoa industry shifts now towards zero deforestation.


Diana Monkey, Cote D'Ivoire, Scott McGraw

La crise du chocolat

Les recherches de Mighty Earth mettent en lumière des déforestations massives liées aux plus gros fabricants mondiaux de chocolat

Par Etelle Higonnet

Aujourd’hui, les géants mondiaux du chocolat ont rencontré le prince de Galles pour évoquer le problème le plus important rencontré par l’industrie du chocolat : la destruction des forêts tropicales et leur remplacement par de vastes plantations de cacao. Des sociétés comme Olam, Mars, Mondelēz International, The Hershey Company et Nestlé se sont assises autour d’une table afin d’envisager les mesures à prendre pour garantir aux consommateurs et consommatrices qu’ils n’éprouveront plus un sentiment de culpabilité chaque fois qu’ils croquent dans leur tablette de chocolat préférée.

La déforestation liée la production du chocolat a ravagé ces dernières années les forêts d’Afrique de l’Ouest qui ne mesurent plus aujourd’hui que 18 % de leur taille initiale. L’appétit mondial pour le chocolat a atteint un niveau record et a engendré une ruée vers le cacao et l’expansion de sa production. Des plantations empiètent aujourd’hui sur les forêts d’Afrique et les forêts tropicales d’Amazonie, détruisant les habitats des chimpanzés et d’autres espèces menacées. Rien que pour le Pérou, la production de cacao (ainsi sont appelées les fèves utilisées dans la fabrication de la masse de cacao puis du chocolat) a été multipliée par cinq entre 1990 et 2013.

Mighty Earth vient d’entreprendre une nouvelle cartographie de la perte du couvert forestier entre 2000 et 2014 dans les régions productrices de cacao du Ghana et de la Côte d’Ivoire, et a pu fournir les preuves supplémentaires d’une déforestation massive.

      1. Nous avons ainsi constaté une perte totale dans les aires de forêts protégées de 85 000 hectares au Ghana et de 485 000 hectares en Côte d’Ivoire entre 2000 et 2014, et des pertes supplémentaires hors de ces aires pour les deux pays.
    1. Les forêts légalement protégées comme les autres forêts disparaissent plus rapidement dans les régions productrices de cacao que dans les autres régions. La déforestation d’aires protégées dans une région productrice de cacao est presque deux fois plus importante que dans une région qui n’en produit pas.
    2. La demande croissante en chocolat conjuguée au peu d’importance accordée par les grands chocolatiers à la traçabilité de leurs matières premières a accéléré le rythme de la déforestation dans les régions productrices de cacao, dans les deux pays depuis 2004. La perte du couvert forestier a atteint un taux particulièrement alarmant de 2012 à 2014, date des dernières cartes disponibles.
    3. La Côte d’Ivoire perd ses forêts plus rapidement que les autres pays d’Afrique. Le taux de perte du Ghana est également alarmant.
    4. Certains épisodes de déforestation ont lieu dans les derniers grands habitats de chimpanzés, notamment dans l’ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire et dans le sud-ouest du Ghana.
    5. Au Ghana, les forêts non protégées sont particulièrement vulnérables. Mais même les « réserves forestières » (avec un statut de protection juridique inférieur) ont des problèmes. Elles sont plus dévastées que les « parcs nationaux » qui bénéficient d’un statut juridique plus important, qui leur permet de résister aux empiétements. En revanche, certaines des zones les plus vulnérables de Côte d’Ivoire se situent aujourd’hui dans les parcs nationaux.

Nous avons créé une carte interactive sur la déforestation dans ces régions du Ghana et de la Côte d’Ivoire de 2000 à 2014, animée avec des séries laps-de-temps dans deux zones où le cacao avait entraîné une déforestation dans et autour de la zone d’habitat des chimpanzés. Notre cartographie fournit des preuves visuelles incontestables allant dans le sens de ce que les journalistes, activistes et biologistes sur le terrain ont dit : le chocolat tue les forêts d’Afrique de l’Ouest et entraîne la disparition des chimpanzés et de la faune sauvage sur une très vaste échelle.

Avant que l’appétit insatiable du secteur du chocolat ne se tourne vers de nouvelles terres et n’entraîne des déforestations supplémentaires, nous devons agir. Les fabricants de chocolat devraient affronter franchement leur sombre passé entaché par la destruction des forêts, adopter une attitude responsable et un système pour éliminer la déforestation dans l’ensemble du secteur (les mesures adoptées par l’industrie du soja ont été couronnées de succès), en concentrant par exemple son expansion uniquement sur les centaines de milliers d’hectares de terres dégradées qui existent en Afrique et dans les autres régions productrices de cacao. D’autres matières premières comme le soja et l’huile de palme ont déjà bénéficié de semblables réformes en matière de développement durable. Le secteur du chocolat, lui, mû par sa quête de nouvelles sources de cacao bon marché, ne se préoccupe que de faire du « greenwashing » et retarde ses engagements pour défricher encore des milliers d’hectares de forêts riches en carbone et en biodiversité.

Le prince de Galles a joué un rôle essentiel, et à de nombreuses reprises, en mobilisant les sociétés et les gouvernements afin qu’ils prennent des mesures en faveur des forêts. L’engagement du Prince Charles est synonyme d’espoir pour les amoureuses et amoureux du chocolat qui seront peut-être bientôt soulagés de savoir que leur tablette préférée ne détruit pas les derniers habitats des grands singes d’Afrique de l’Ouest.


  • Les tendances mondiales du chocolat menacent les forêts : nous consommons près de 3 millions de tonnes de chocolat et autres produits chocolatés par an. Chaque année, la demande mondiale augmente de 2 à 5 % faisant ainsi pression sur les écosystèmes forestiers.
  • La culture du cacao a été un désastre historique pour les forêts d’Afrique de l’Ouest : la production de cacao a doublé de 1987 à 2007, entraînant avec elle la déforestation, des pertes de biodiversité et des émissions carbone élevées. (CIFOR). La production de cacao est responsable d’une grande partie de la diminution de la forêt tropicale en Afrique de l’Ouest, un ancien point chaud de la biodiversité, qui a été réduit à 18 % de sa taille initiale, relevée en l’an 2000. (Sustainability Science).
  • Le cacao est un désastre pour les forêts ivoiriennes : L’UE et le ministère ivoirien des Eaux et forêts ont tous deux estimé qu’environ 80 % des forêts du pays ont disparu entre 1960 et 2010, en raison principalement de la culture du cacao. On estime que 70 % de la déforestation illégale est liée aux plantations de cacao, et que 12 % du cacao du pays est produit à l’intérieur des parcs nationaux. L’UNEP a estimé que 10 000 cultivateurs avaient envahi la forêt de l’ouest du Cavally, une des dernières aires protégées du pays, un habitat vital pour les chimpanzés et les éléphants. (The Chicago Council).
  • Les grands singes disparaissent : « des chercheurs qui ont enquêté sur les primates dans 23 aires protégées de la Côte d’Ivoire se sont heurtés presque partout à des scènes de destruction : des fermes illégales de cacao avaient empiété sur les deux tiers des zones étudiées, entraînant un effondrement spectaculaire des populations des primates » comme les cercopithèques du Roloway et les chimpanzés. (Rainforest Rescue).
  • Le cacao devient un facteur de déforestation en RDC : une étude menée en République démocratique du Congo dans les quatre principales régions productrices de cacao « a révélé que l’expansion du cacao pourrait mener à la disparition de 176 à 395 kilomètres carrés de forêt au cours de la prochaine décennie », et plus particulièrement dans le territoire de Mambasa, dans le district de l’Équateur, autour de Mbandaka, Bikoro et Lukolela.
  • Le cacao menace aussi la forêt tropicale amazonienne : les producteurs de cacao se tournent maintenant vers l’Amérique du Sud, et notamment le Pérou qui a vu sa production de cacao multipliée par cinq entre 1990 et 2013. Des images satellites de 2012 ont montré United Cacao en train de défricher un terrain de 2000 hectares pour le convertir en plantation de cacao, empiétant sévèrement sur la forêt amazonienne du Pérou, riche en biodiversité et en carbone. « Matt Finer de Amazon Conservation Association a utilisé les images Landsat pour rapporter en détail, mois après mois, le défrichage de cette zone et démontrer qu’il s’agissait auparavant d’une forêt primaire. Au même moment, Greg Asner de la Carnegie Institution for Science a pu estimer, grâce à la technologie aérienne LiDAR, que ces parcelles de forêt contenaient une moyenne de 122 tonnes métriques de carbone par hectare. » (WRI). »
  • Les émissions carbone d’une barre chocolatée : « Cadbury estime que 169 grammes d’équivalent CO2 sont émis dans l’atmosphère pour chaque barre chocolatée Dairy Milk », sans compter les émissions de CO2 imputables à la déforestation. La même barre fabriquée avec du « cacao de déforestation » comme celui d’United Cacao au Pérou verrait son empreinte carbone presque doubler. Une barre de chocolat noir aurait un impact triple sur le climat. (WRI).
  • Le Cacao entraîne la déforestation et les violations des droits du travail de façon similaire : le marché mondial du cacao représentait environ 100 milliards de dollars en 2015 et les plus grandes entreprises du secteur dégagent des profits substantiels tout en insistant pour baisser les coûts de revient. Cette attitude entraîne des pratiques illégales tant dans leur quête d’une main-d’œuvre bon marché (dont le travail des enfants) que de terrains à bas prix (dont les forêts). Le secteur du cacao fait travailler entre 5 et 6 millions de cultivateurs, principalement des petits agriculteurs qui vivent avec moins de 1 €/jour. La majorité des cultivateurs de cacao en Côte d’Ivoire et au Ghana gagnent respectivement 0,44 € et 0,67 € par jour en moyenne. Le secteur du chocolat est tristement connu pour ses violations des droits du travail, mises en évidence par des campagnes comme la vidéo « Hershey’s Chocolate, Kissed by Child Labor. » Un rapport publié en 2015 par le Département du Travail des États-Unis a révélé que « le nombre d’enfants travaillant illégalement dans les plantations de cacao au Ghana et en Côte d’Ivoire s’est accru de 21 % en cinq ans. »
  • Le secteur du cacao peut se réformer et s’engager à une production véritablement responsable : ce secteur se trouve encore loin derrière les leaders des secteurs de l’huile de palme et du papier et leurs les engagements, ou encore ceux du moratoire sur le soja au Brésil. L’industrie du chocolat est aussi très en retard en matière de lutte contre la déforestation, légale comme illégale, contre le saccage des parcs nationaux, les ventes illicites transfrontalières, l’esclavage, le travail des enfants, l’accaparement des terres et la paupérisation des petits agriculteurs. Mais elle peut changer. Une volonté politique est nécessaire pour que ce secteur amorce un virage et que des sociétés comme Mars, Nestlé, Mondelēz, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Dreyfus et Olam se réunissent avec les gouvernements de la Côte d’Ivoire et du Ghana mais aussi les banques régionales et internationales, pour changer le cours des choses.


The Chocolate Crisis

Mighty Earth Research Reveals Massive Deforestation Connected to World’s Largest Chocolate Sellers


By Etelle Higonnet

Today, the world’s largest chocolate makers met with the Prince of Wales to discuss solutions to the chocolate industry’s biggest problem: the destruction of rainforests to make way for large-scale chocolate production. Companies including Olam, Mars, Mondelēz International, The Hershey Company, and Nestlé were at the table to see how they can take steps to ensure that customers don’t have to feel guilt for biting into their favorite brand of chocolate.

Deforestation for chocolate has ravaged forests in West Africa which are now at less than 18% their former size. With our global appetite for chocolate at an all-time high, we’re now seeing a race to expand cacao production, with plantations encroaching across Africa’s forests and in the Amazon rainforest, destroying chimpanzee and endangered animals’ habitats. Peru alone has seen a 5-fold increase in cacao (as the raw beans that produce cocoa and then chocolate are called) production between 1990 and 2013.

Mighty Earth just undertook a new mapping of tree cover loss from 2000-2014 in the chocolate producing regions of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and found new evidence of massive deforestation.

    1. We found a total loss inside protected forest areas of 209,577 acres in Ghana and 1,196,879 acres in Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 to 2014, and additional loss in both countries outside those areas.
    2. Both legally protected forests and other forests are vanishing faster in cacao-producing regions than other regions. Deforestation of protected areas in the cacao-growing region was almost double what it is outside of cacao growing regions.
    3. In response to rising demand combined with too little attention to sourcing from major chocolate companies, the pace of deforestation in chocolate regions has worsened in both countries since 2004. Tree cover loss has been climbing especially alarmingly since 2012, until 2014 when the last maps were available.
    4. Côte d’Ivoire is losing its forests faster than any other nation in Africa. Ghana’s rate is alarmingly close.
    5. Some of the deforestation is happening in the largest remaining chimpanzee habitats, particularly in Western Côte d’Ivoire and Southwest Ghana.
    6. In Ghana the non-protected forests are especially vulnerable – but even the “forest reserves” (with lower legal protection status) are being devastated relative to official “national parks” (with stronger legal status that makes them capable of resisting encroachments). In contrast, some of the most vulnerable areas in Côte d’Ivoire are actually within parks.

We created an interactive map of deforestation across the entire cacao regions of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 to 2014; and we animated a zoomed-in time series of deforestation in two areas where cacao has driven deforestation in and around chimpanzee habitat. Our mapping provides incontrovertible visual evidence of what journalists, activists, and biologists on the ground have been saying: chocolate is killing West African forests and wildlife like chimpanzees on a massive scale.

Before the chocolate industry’s insatiable hunger for new lands drives more deforestation, industry leaders must act. Chocolate makers should forthrightly address the chocolate industry’s dark past of forest destruction, embrace accountability, and adopt an industry-wide mechanism to eliminate deforestation (which has found success in the soy industry), for instance by focusing expansion only on Africa and other cacao-producing region’ millions of acres of degraded land. Other commodities like soy and palm have already signed on to similar sustainability reforms, whilst the chocolate industry is still busy greenwashing, delaying, and clearing thousands of hectares of carbon-rich, biodiverse forest in its quest for cheap new sources of chocolate.

The Prince of Wales has played a critical role many times in marshaling major companies and governments to take action for forests. Prince Charles’ involvement provides hope that chocolate lovers may soon be able to have more confidence that their favorite bar isn’t destroying great apes’ last West African habitat.


  • Chocolate global trends threaten forests: We consume close to 3 million tons of chocolate and other cacao products annually, but every year global demand goes up by about 2 to 5%, creating pressure on forests.
  • Cacao has been a historical disaster for West African forests: Cacao production doubled from 1987-2007, causing deforestation, losses of biodiversity and high carbon emissions. (CIFOR). Cacao production is responsible for much of the loss of the rainforest of West Africa, a former global biodiversity hotspot, which shrank down to 18% of its original area by 2000. (Sustainability Science).
  • Cacao is a disaster for Ivorian forests: The EU and the Ivoirian Forestry Ministry both estimated that about 80% of the country’s forests have disappeared from 1960 to 2010, much of it for cacao. An estimated 70% of illegal deforestation is related to planting cacao, and 12% of the country’s cacao is produced inside national parks. UNEP estimated 10,000 farmers had invaded the Western Cavally forest, one of the last protected areas in the country and which provides crucial habitat to chimpanzees and elephants. (The Chicago Council).
  • Great apes are disappearing: “Researchers surveying primates in 23 protected areas in Côte d’Ivoire encountered scenes of destruction nearly everywhere: illegal cacao farms had encroached on two thirds of the areas studied, causing a dramatic collapse of primate populations” like the Roloway monkey, and chimpanzees. (Rainforest Rescue).
  • Cacao is becoming a driver of Deforestation in the DRC: A study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the four major cacao growing regions “found that cacao expansion could lead to the loss of 176-395 square kilometres of forest in the next decade”, especially in Mambasa, Equatorial Province, Mbandaka, Bikoro and Lukolela.
  • The emissions of one chocolate bar:Cadbury estimates that 169g of carbon dioxide equivalent are emitted into the atmosphere for each 49g Dairy Milk chocolate bar,” not counting emissions from deforestation. But if the same milk chocolate bar were made from ‘deforestation cacao’ like United Cacao’s in Peru, it would have nearly double the carbon footprint, and a dark chocolate bar would have triple the climate impact. (WRI).
  • Cacao drives deforestation and labor abuse in similar ways: The global market for cacao was around $100 billion in 2015, and top chocolate companies make sizeable profits but insist on ever lower costs, driving illegality both in their quest for cheap labor (including child labor) and cheap land (including forests). Cacao employs 5-6 million farmers, mostly smallholders living on under $1.25/day. Most cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana earn roughly $0.54 and $0.82 per day cultivating the crop. The chocolate industry is notorious for labor rights abuses, highlighted by campaigns like the video “Hershey's Chocolate, Kissed by Child Labor.” A 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Labor found that, “21 percent more children are illegally laboring on cacao farms in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire than five years ago.”
  • The cacao sector can reform and commit to true responsible production: The industry is far from any sustainability commitments seen from leaders in the palm oil and paper industries or in the Brazil soy moratorium. The chocolate industry is not even close to addressing illegal and legal deforestation, the decimation of national parks, illegal cross-border sales, slavery, child labor, land-grabbing, and pauperization of vulnerable smallholders. But they can change. What is needed is the political will for the industry to turn the corner, and bring together companies like Mars, Nestle, and Mondelez; Cargill, Barry Callebaut, and Dreyfus, Olam, alongside the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and international/regional banks.