Added value for the climate and for diversity

Our most important raw materials are agricultural products that are directly dependent on an intact environment. Climate change is therefore a huge challenge for cocoa farming. Increasing deforestation and the spread of monoculture are exacerbating the situation. Chocolats Halba is not only committed to emitting fewer greenhouse gases in its production process, but is also actively involved in efforts to protect the climate in cocoa-growing countries.

Huge challenge

Scientists are undecided whether global warming is also influencing the frequency and intensity of large-scale weather phenomena such as El Niño. But what is certain is that climate change is already being felt. For example, droughts and floods are on the increase – and both of these weather extremes have an enormous influence on agricultural harvests. The cocoa harvest times in Central America have shifted, for instance. Whereas 2015 was markedly dry, early 2016 and 2017 saw weeks of heavy rainfall.

Combating climate change is a huge challenge, especially since the cocoa tree is a demanding plant, and a good harvest calls for a whole range of requirements to be met. The soil must be moist, deep and rich in humus. Temperatures during the middle of the year should be around 25 degrees Celsius, and should not fall below 20 degrees at night. Scenarios predicting the impact of climate change in Ghana indicate that some regions that are strongly shaped by cocoa cultivation today will by 2050 be less suitable or unsuitable for it due to increasing drought.

An employee of the ACOPAGRO cooperative in Peru prepares seedlings for the reforestation project.

An integrated approach

The continuing deforestation of tropical forests and the trend towards monoculture are also putting cocoa farming under pressure. They are leading to changes to the microclimate and water supply in growing areas, as well as to biodiversity, which stabilizes ecosystems. Monoculture is a consequence of inadequate living conditions for farmers – they believe it will improve harvests and income. In fact, monoculture destroys the soil’s fertility in the medium to long term, and increases the susceptibility of the sensitive cocoa trees to disease. Farmers struggle to afford the necessary pesticides and fertilizers.

Chocolats Halba is pursuing a new, integrated approach to tackle environmental problems: agroforestry, which is a combination of farming and forestry. Halba was the first company world-wide to launch such projects in the cocoa-growing countries of Honduras, Ecuador, Peru and Ghana. We are working with small farmers locally and training them to plant and cultivate mixed-crop plantations consisting of cocoa and other fruit trees as well as native timber trees.

Great potential

The benefits of agroforestry are impressive. Mixed cultivation leads to improved biodiversity and soil fertility. This makes the cocoa trees more resistant to climate fluctuations and diseases. The risk of reduced crop yields is lessened, while at the same time income opportunities multiply. Thanks to higher cocoa yields in the long term and also the additional sale of timber and fruit, farmers are able to boost their income significantly.

Halba has planted over 300,000 timber trees in its agroforestry projects since 2011, most of them in Honduras. New and existing projects are proving to be extremely promising. We therefore firmly believe that we will achieve our target of 500,000 trees in the medium term, thereby making a substantial contribution to the long-term climate stabilization.

Cocoa growing in the shade of banana trees and timber trees.