A new partnership launched by Fairtrade International and non-profit organization Earthworm Foundation will work together to monitor deforestation and assess environmental vulnerability. Using Starling, a satellite monitoring tool developed by Earthworm Foundation and Airbus, the pilot project aims to capture critical deforestation data within Fairtrade cooperatives and their smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to support these communities in better management of forest landscapes.
The partnership, which comes amid the European Commission’s push to ban imports of cocoa, coffee and other commodities when production is associated with deforestation, will strengthen cooperatives and their smallholder members’ access to risk management data, better enabling them to maintain access to their core markets in Europe and beyond.
While supportive of the need for deforestation legislation, Fairtrade has called on the European Union to ensure that all measures against deforestation include fairness and social justice as core elements of legislation. Fairtrade has long voiced concern about the impact deforestation legislation could have on smallholder farmers, their livelihoods, and their communities. The vast majority of cocoa smallholders work on farms smaller than five hectares, live in extremely vulnerable contexts burdened by economic insecurity and the growing impacts of climate change, and are reliant on cocoa for the majority of their household income. Losing access to core markets like the European Union would be devastating to these impacted farmers who would still need to earn a living and may be driven to deforestation and unregulated work as a result. These unintended consequences would ultimately undermine sustainability, forest preservation, and the very intention of deforestation regulations.
“This partnership will finally direct the transfer of deforestation risk data in a meaningful way to cooperatives and their members in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana using the principles of Fair Data,” said Jon Walker, Senior Advisor for Cocoa at Fairtrade International. “In this manner, we can ensure that those with the least power in supply chains have access to this critical data and can use it to improve their livelihoods and beneficially impact their communities.”
“Ultimately, we hope the European Union will work with producing country governments to ensure that all smallholders are supported with market access. However, given the timelines of the impending regulation and its global scope impacting millions of cocoa and coffee smallholders, Fairtrade felt there was an urgency to launch this pilot now,” he added.
“We look forward to proving our experience and knowledge of using Starling’s land cover and forest cover change datasets to tackle deforestation and support actions for addressing environmental vulnerabilities. We are also excited to be working further with farmers and their organizations to develop fit for purpose tools to enhance their work on the ground” said Rob McWilliam, Director of Technical Services at Earthworm Foundation.
Stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and developments in our magazine.