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Mighty Earth Responds to Cargill's Announcement of Revisions to Forests, Soy, and Human Rights Policies

In response to Cargill’s publication of its latest policies regarding soy, forests, and human rights, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"Cargill is moving in the right direction by extending their promise to end deforestation by 2020 to also protect other critical ecosystems like South America’s Cerrado, Gran Chaco, and Llanos. This announcement has the potential to be the starting point that leads to a major breakthrough for more sustainable meat, cocoa, and palm oil.

"Our field investigations have shown that despite multiple commitments to protect forests over the last decade, Cargill often lags behind their competitors in the implementation of those commitments. In 2014, Cargill joined other companies in a CEO-level commitment to end deforestation across its major supply chains by 2020. Since then, we and others have published repeated investigations documenting extensive deforestation in its soy supply chain in Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

"Over the last three weeks, I’ve been happy to hold constructive discussions about these issues several times with Cargill CEO David MacLennan; his personal focus gives us hope that Cargill has the potential to turn a corner to address deforestation across its soy, cocoa, and palm oil supply chains. Cargill also needs to dramatically improve its performance to stop destroying native vegetation and allowing fertilizer and manure to pollute America’s waterways.

"To win the trust of customers, communities, and the public, Cargill needs to show right away that it will enforce this policy by ensuring that any supplier that engages in destruction of native ecosystems is not part of their supply chain. It also needs to spread its own decade-long success in working with other companies to eliminate deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon to the other soy-growing ecosystems. This is the world’s most successful private sector environmental initiative, and there’s no reason to confine it to just the Brazilian Amazon while massive deforestation continues in other areas. Cargill must also implement agroforestry practices in their cocoa supply chain and ensure farmers receive decent wages so that they can provide the sustainable chocolate that the world’s consumers demand.

"We are hopeful that soon we will be able to praise Cargill not just for promises, but for action. We will be watching closely."


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Return to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana - Second Field Investigation and Satellite

 From the field: Ongoing Deforestation in Cote D’Ivoire

Mighty Earth returned to Côte d’Ivoire to see what’s happened on the ground, since the chocolate industry and government promises made at the November 2017 COP in Bonn — to go deforestation-free


One year ago, the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies stood beside representatives of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the two major cocoa-producing countries, and committed to transform their industry. They said they would end deforestation linked to the production of cocoa and protect human rights better. Mighty Earth monitored these promises all year. We conducted analysis of remote sensing data of forests in the cocoa-growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. In October 2018, Mighty Earth sent a field team to check things out on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire. Did the reality live up to the promises?


This is what we found.

In the Goin Debé classified forest, deforestation for cocoa was continuing, and the local cocoa farmers reported that families were exchanging land to make room for more cocoa. One forest had been cleared and planted with cocoa just two days before our team arrived – in the protected area we had investigated less than a year prior.

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In the Cavally Forest Reserve, the team headed into a dense intact forest, their path cleared by the machete swings of SODEFOR rangers. After 30 minutes, the forest cover began to thin and cocoa trees appeared. Some were one year old or less, indicating that they had likely been planted after the Frameworks of the Cocoa and Forest Initiative were announced in November 2017 at the Bonn COP.


 

 

Some protected areas are on the verge of extinction in the next 10 years, if the deforestation rates of the last year continue. These forests are mostly in the Southwest of the Côte d’Ivoire, in the cocoa producing heartland. Goin Debé is projected to vanish in around fifty years, if we continue with business as usual. Moyen Cavally the same.


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Full-sun cocoa prevents the growth of other species, and creates a biodiversity wasteland – a food desert for birds, bats, bees, and other living things. In contrast, densely shaded agroforestry retains important benefits of a natural forest.


While top chocolate companies and their executives and investors make sizable profits in this industry worth $100 billion a year, they pay very low wages and rely on extensive child labor. Our team found child labour in the field.


Some Ivorian forests we studied saw improvements, with deforestation rates going down. The top performers included the forest authorities protecting Tai, Nzo, Semien, Fransobi, Port Gauthier, Rapides Grah, Dassioko Sud and Nord, with Haute Dono and Bolo Ouest seeing the strongest positive changes of any area.

Unfortunately, other Ivorian forests saw things actually get worse, not better. Despite the promises made by industry and government, as this photo essay demonstrates in Goin Debe and Cavaly, the deforestation rates rose. Other poor-performing protected areas were Mont Kourabahi and Niouniourou Bloc Deux. But Cavaly Mont Sante (similar name but different protected area) stood out far and away as the worst of all. Tragically, even the national park designation was not enough to save Mont Peko, where deforestation rates rose as well.


Farmers hack down the smaller trees with machetes, but the oldest are too large to chop. They are burned instead; like this ancient giant we walked past, whose base has been charred by an illegal fire.


The Ivorian and Ghanaian governments have clearly failed to clamp down on this ongoing deforestation, and companies, despite their public commitments, have continued to buy cocoa from suppliers connected to deforestation. While companies and local authorities have taken some actions to limit deforestation, and some areas saw improvements, we nonetheless documented that farmers who engaged in deforestation for cocoa were still able to openly sell their cocoa without repercussions.


Deforestation in Ghana from 2001-2017. Red dots represent forest loss.

Deforestation in Ghana from November 2017-2018.

To assess the impact of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, we conducted analysis of remote sensing data across national parks and other protected areas in the cocoa-growing region in Ghana too.

This shows new tree cover loss in Ghana’s cocoa region in 2018. Ghana made tremendous progress this past year in mobilizing to end deforestation for cocoa, but they have a long way to go. Most of their forests are already gone. And satellite mapping shows that deforestation for cocoa is still continuing.


 

A year ago, we were all filled with hope when Prince Charles, Initiatief Duurzame Handel, and the World Cocoa Foundation helped industry and governments pledge to do better. Clearly key actors are failing and have not kept their promises. However, there is still room for optimism. Some authorities and companies have already gotten on the right track, proving that solutions are within are grasp. We can all do better. It’s not too late.


The future is in all of our hands.

Take action now.


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