Côte d’Ivoire’s Agbo 2 Forest is home to two rivers and hundreds of indigenous plant species. Although designated as protected, many hectares of the forest have been lost over time to illegal slash-and-burn, logging and poor agricultural practices.
Supported by the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, Barry Callebaut joined forces with partners to commence a large reforestation and biodiversity restoration initiative. Since mid-2021, more than 50,000 native trees have been planted under the reforestation project, which will continue to scale over the next three years to reach the objective of 150,000 trees on 300 hectares. This is yet another step towards meeting our aim to become carbon and forest positive by 2025.
Barry Callebaut have recently announced that over the past few weeks, they have planted an additional 50,000 native tree saplings. This is a huge step towards their objective of planting 150,000 trees on 300 hectares in the degraded areas of the forest.
“Ours is a very ambitious goal,” says Tilmann Silber, Senior Climate, Land and Carbon Development Manager at Barry Callebaut. “We recognize the historical impact of increased cocoa growing on land and on cocoa farming communities.”
Since the beginning of the project, community involvement has been vital. Some local community members were initially sceptical about the project’s motives. However, following discussions with the collaborators of the project, they were pleased to learn that the project did not involve cutting down trees, but rather, aimed to restore the forest for the benefit of the entire community.
Silber explains “For decades, the on-farm practice was cutting down as many trees as possible to provide more sunlight for cocoa trees. However, shade management is better for both tree and soil health. Replanting native trees under our agroforestry project shows farmers the benefits of changing their approach.”
Tilmann continues: “Community engagement also means creating additional sources of income, which has generated much interest in the reforestation project after initial scepticism. We created areas in the forest where they can grow vegetables as we plant trees. To date, on average, one member of each nearby household has been trained on practical forest restoration skills including tree planting, surveying and nursery management and employed to implement the project. In addition, farmers will receive financial incentives for maintaining agroforestry on their farms.”
An additional condition for the project’s long-term success, is the partnering with SODEFOR, Côte d’Ivoire’s forest management agency, FORLIANCE, a leading sustainable land use consultancy, and EticWood, a consultancy experienced in forestry and agroforestry implementation. Huntley Bromwell, FORLIANCE Senior Consultant, believes collaborating with stakeholders and the local community is vital to ensure all parties understand the benefits of restoring the Agbo 2 Forest. “The trees we’ve planted are already growing quickly, capturing carbon and improving temperature regulation; some of them may live longer than anyone working on this project!”
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