Dispatch from World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting

selecting cocoa beansBy Kerry Scanlon, Senior Associate, Markets Transformation, Rainforest Alliance

Last week, Rick Scobey, the President of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), opened the 2017 World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting (WCFPM) by enumerating the 6 key sustainability challenges that need to be addressed within the cocoa sector:  the first challenge on the list was “Farmer Livelihoods and Poverty”, which Rick noted has been at the top of the list for the past 17 years – since the World Cocoa Foundation was established.

Every year the WCFPM brings together a diverse group of actors in the cocoa industry, including representatives from companies along the cocoa supply chain, members of governments of cocoa producing countries, and relevant NGO actors to discuss challenges and solutions for improving the sustainability of the cocoa sector. At its most basic level, sustainability starts with cocoa farmers; but without the support of the entire the supply chain, scalability at farm level is not possible. With this central issue in mind, the WCF curated this year’s gathering in Washington, D.C. to identify technology-based solutions to increase transparency and address other sustainability issues in the global cocoa supply chain.

For the Rainforest Alliance, supply chain transparency is a fundamental element of certification and a focus of our work since we were founded 30 years ago. Through strict supply chain segregation and traceability technology, actors all along the certified supply chain have the ability to identify the origin of the cocoa they purchase. Knowing the origin allows buyers to better understand the sustainability of their ingredients and  further support the implementation of sustainable practices on the farms in their supply chains. As issues such as deforestation become more of a focus for the cocoa sector, transparency and traceability are integral to the solution, and a better understanding of the source of their cocoa can help companies work toward ending issues like cocoa-driven deforestation.

In addition to supply chain transparency, premium transparency was another topic at issue during the WCFPM – and another area of focus for the Rainforest Alliance. Actors in the cocoa sector take different approaches to addressing the need for improved farmer livelihoods. One such approach is paying farmer premiums for certified cocoa which, in general, is the case for cocoa grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. As we continuously improve monitoring and evaluation, the Rainforest Alliance will work to capture data related to premium payments through a more robust technology-based internal management system (IMS). This will enable us to better understand the impact premiums generate for producers. Collecting and publishing more information around these impacts will provide valuable lessons for the sector and help the Rainforest Alliance move toward improving farmer livelihoods in an ever more sophisticated way.

We applaud the conversation around transparency that was raised at this year’s WCFPM.  The Rainforest Alliance team looks forward to continuing to improve the technological solutions we offer to both simplify and expand transparency for the companies sourcing cocoa (and other crops!) from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.

To read our recent report Toward a Sustainable Cocoa Sector click here

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