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Encouraging smallholder cocoa farmers to make forest-smart decisions


The expansion of agricultural commodity production is a key driver of deforestation in many countries, particularly with cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the world’s two largest cocoa producers. In Ghana, cocoa cultivation caused 27 percent of the total deforestation between 1990-2008. Climate change is also exacerbating deforestation by causing marked shifts in cocoa production levels and quality. Unfortunately, West Africa’s smallholder cocoa farmers are at the epicenter of the twin threats of deforestation and climate change. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, nearly 2 million farmers till the lands of two to three hectares that produce 60 percent of the world’s cocoa. It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million existing cocoa farms require urgent and progressive renovation and/or rehabilitation of up to 4.5 million hectares of land. With the pressure to increase productivity through intensification, farmers turn to expanding the area of cocoa production to increase yield, which further drives deforestation.

In their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC’s), both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire committed to decoupling deforestation from agriculture to mitigate climate change and promoting agroforestry and other climate smart practices, which also contribute to the countries’ REDD+ objectives. Achieving this, however, will require important structural changes to address a range of challenges, including the need for sustainable forest management, consistent production standards and practices, improved know-how and technologies among field practitioners, more financing directed at core issues, and more understanding of the barriers and distortions that prevent better practices from being widely adopted.

The World Bank is supporting engagement with the cocoa sector through a partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), an alliance of cocoa producing companies committed to promoting a sustainable cocoa economy. PROFOR’s program seeks to leverage partnerships and building knowledge through an extensive stakeholder engagement process to address key challenges to enable cocoa sector actors to move toward sustainable forest smart and climate smart solutions.


PROFOR’s analytical work seeks to build knowledge on the following issues:

1) Finding common ground on climate smart cocoa value chains by working with the private sector;

2) Aligning efforts to address cocoa production as a driver of deforestation in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire;

3) Describing funding options that can address challenges while moving toward forest smart and climate smart smallholder production methods; and

4) Aligning countries, multinationals, and local buying companies to support farmers in sustainable cocoa intensification that reduces expansionary pressure on remaining forest resources.

A White Paper will be produced that will focus on smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana and CĂ´te d’Ivoire. The paper will outline a menu of options that government agencies, development partners and cocoa sector businesses can employ to advance the following objectives: 

  • Keep smallholders engaged in sustainable cocoa production;
  • Ensure that cocoa production / practices do not increase deforestation;
  • Encourage rejuvenation of cocoa farms; and,
  • Promote reforestation and afforestation for mixed agroforestry that diversifies both shade in the landscape and farmers’ income generating potential.

This White Paper will build on work already initiated through collaboration with WCF, Climate Focus, The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Prince of Wales ISU, and other relevant stakeholders.


This activity ended in August 2018. This effort produced a report focused on smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and identified policy and investment opportunities for promoting climate smart, zero-deforestation cocoa production.

The report summarized options for rehabilitating West Africa’s aging cocoa stock and integrating shade-cocoa production into climate smart agroforestry mosaics. It advanced the stakeholder engagement process, contributed to cocoa sector action plans, and advanced thinking about how to finance these kinds of interventions. On-the-ground outcomes from the work are still being realized (and will take some time), but it is certain that it has influenced companies’ and countries’ cocoa action plans as well as the direction of their forward investment planning.

The report, published in December 2017, contributed to discussions of the Cocoa and Forest Initiative ( and to the UNFCCC COP23 in Bonn.

The report and the associated engagement process contributed options and ideas to inform the action agendas of countries, companies, and producers to support farmers in sustainable intensification of production – with the aim to improve livelihoods and reduce expansionary pressures on forests and the environment.

This work also supported a dialogue process and collaborative working relationships with the World Cocoa Foundation, Climate Focus, IDH, Prince of Wales ISU, and the governments of the two target countries. Through workshop discussions in the two countries (Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire), this activity brought together key policy makers (Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Finance; cocoa parastatals; REDD+ implementation agencies) and cocoa producing and buying companies; the topics and suggestions in the paper were shared, refined and validated for further use in developing a Zero-Deforestation Roadmap and action plans for the cocoa sector (see WCF and IDH websites).

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Last Updated : 05-16-2019