Engaging with smallholder cocoa farmers to develop deforestation-free supply chains in Côte d’Ivoire

  • Year

    2014 – 2015

  • Location

    Côte d’Ivoire

  • Partners

    National REDD+ Commission, Côte d’Ivoire; Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD); SalvaTerra; World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); Centre Universitaire De Recherche d’Application en Télédétection (CURAT); Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire; Solidaridad; Two global chocolate manufacturers; UN-REDD

  • Budget

    EUR 200 000

  • Funded by

    European Union

This project was carried out during 2014-2015 and the content has not been updated anymore since. To learn about the most recent information on engaging with smallholder cocoa farmers, read our action on the implementation of a deforestation-free supply chain pilot.


The EU REDD Facility engages with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, the private sector and smallholders to support development of deforestation-free cocoa production. The ultimate aim is deforestation-free agricultural production.

The objective

The objective of the EU REDD Facility was to support the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in building the enabling conditions for deforestation-free agricultural supply chains. The Facility partnered with the National REDD+ Commission, two private sector chocolate manufacturers and their suppliers, in particular smallholder cocoa producers, to demonstrate how deforestation-free supply chains could work in practice.

In September 2014, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, announced that the country would shift to zero-deforestation cocoa production in 2017. This positive step was the outcome of work with the National REDD+ Commission to build a business case for forest-friendly commodities in Côte d’Ivoire. Since the President’s announcement, stakeholders in the agricultural sector have urged the National REDD+ Commission to begin testing and implementing zero-deforestation commodity production. The EU REDD Facility is helping the National REDD+ Commission to demonstrate how a zero-deforestation policy can be adapted to the Côte d’Ivoire context.

Cocoa Farming in Côte d’Ivoire

The challenge

Deforestation driven by commodity production, in particular the production of cocoa, has led to the loss of most of the natural forest in Côte d’Ivoire. Involving the private sector is critical to the success of a zero-deforestation initiative. Given the profitable returns from commercial agriculture, REDD+ incentives alone are unlikely to make a difference. At the micro-level, involving smallholder farmers is also important for zero-deforestation because they will need to improve their agricultural practices. The close involvement of the private sector, smallholder cocoa farmers and government makes this project unique and contrasts with the approach of zero-deforestation initiatives led by large palm oil producers, such as those operating in Indonesia and Liberia.

Involving these diverse parties brings new challenges and offers new insights to inform the actions of the EU REDD Facility going forward. Sustaining engagement with the agricultural sector, and coordinating with the Coffee-Cocoa Board and the Ministry of Agriculture, will be important. The National REDD+ Commission and the national FLEGT Unit at the Ministry of Forest and Water will also need to work together, notably to disseminate information about the new Forest Code, develop and implement regulations. Strengthening law enforcement in agricultural commodity production will require a concerted effort.

The approach

Our approach was three-pronged:

  • We partnered with two leading chocolate manufacturers to test the implementation of a zero-deforestation policy in their supply chains. This involved facilitating negotiations between the companies, the National REDD+ Commission and an independent observer on a voluntary agreement specifying the scope of the companies’ involvement, and methods for monitoring and verification.
  • We partnered with the UN-REDD Programme to study the feasibility of a national payments for environmental services (PES) scheme targeting smallholders implementing zero-deforestation practices and participating in forest restoration initiatives such as agroforestry. Establishing a national PES scheme is central to national REDD+ implementation and will play an important role in helping smallholders buy in to deforestation-free supply chains.
  • We supported policy dialogues on forest-friendly agriculture. The EU REDD Facility helps the National REDD+ Commission negotiate with national producer associations on formalising a cooperation agreement. The Facility also helps the National REDD+ Commission prepare for significant international events, such as the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP).

“This approach creates optimism among national forest actors. In the past, they did not know how to communicate with the agricultural sector, especially the private sector. Now there is hope, because a dialogue has been opened.”

Results and impact


The project will deliver concrete results in 2017. Results in the initial stage include:

  • The National REDD+ Commission and national producer associations established an official framework for voluntary action by the private sector on deforestation-free supply chains in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • The feasibility study on PES will help the National REDD+ Commission test the PES mechanism in one or more pilot sites in 2016.
  • National producer associations expressed support for a national policy on forest-friendly agriculture.
  • In partnership with the National REDD+ Commission, two major cocoa buyers in Côte d’Ivoire identified pilot sites to test zero-deforestation supply chains.


  • The pilot project shows that a zero-deforestation approach to agricultural supply chains is not exclusive to international large-scale palm oil producers. The approach can be adapted to smallholder supply chains in Africa.
  • Côte d’Ivoire’s submission to the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) highlights the transition to zero-deforestation agriculture as a major strategic policy measure.

Cocoa Farming in Côte d’Ivoire