The cocoa in chocolate products is probably driving deforestation across the globe, according to new research by the environmental campaigning organisation Mighty Earth.

Following an investigation by the Guardian and Mighty Earth that showed that cocoa was driving deforestation in West Africa, the group mapped cocoa-producing regions in Indonesia, Peru, Ecuador and Cameroon, and found a high risk that cocoa is driving deforestation there as well.

Mighty Earth collected cocoa import-export data and maps of regions where cocoa is grown and layered it over maps of deforestation between 2000 and 2016. They found that there was large-scale deforestation in the four countries they focused on, and they said what had happened to West African forests could happen worldwide if the industry did not change.

Etelle Higonnet, the lead researcher, said: “The Ivory Coast and Ghana stand as a cautionary tale of what could happen in other countries where cocoa is spreading, if the industry does not reform its practices.”

The chocolate industry has expanded quickly in recent years, feeding a growing global demand for chocolate.

In national parks and forest reserves in Ivory Coast, the Guardian found that swathes of trees had been cleared to plant cocoa, and that thousands of people were living and farming there under the noses of the authorities whose supposed job it was to protect them.

After the publication of the Guardian’s investigation and Mighty Earth’s report last September, 23 of the world’s biggest chocolate companies along with the governments of Ghana and Ivory Coast signed up to no new deforestation in West Africa. 

But far fewer said they would commit to deforestation-free cocoa worldwide – although two of the top producers, Olam and Hershey’s, said they would.

Ruth maclean

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network 

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