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Call for cooperation in West Africa to enhance information for farmers impacted by climate change

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Opus Insights B.V. (Opus) is calling for urgent action by the agricultural sector to implement technology solutions for farmers and supply chains affected by climate change in West Africa. To achieve this, WBCSD and Opus announced their plans to scale ‘CocoaCloud’, a pre-competitive data platform and impact initiative to strengthen agricultural productivity and climate resilience in the West African cocoa landscape.

The West African cocoa belt suffers from an acute lack of easily accessible, accurate weather data in key growing areas, preventing essential agricultural-management decisions by farmers. This issue is exacerbated by unpredictable weather due to climate change: coastal West Africa is forecast to see unpredictable rainfall and increasingly difficult growing conditions in the coming years.

With the target of reaching one million farmers in Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire by 2024, the CocoaCloud data platform generates, translates and disseminates critical information – such as weather forecasts and location-specific agricultural advice – that support ‘climate smart’ decisions for agriculture. The impact initiative is already supporting 7,500 cocoa farmers, extension advisors and wider community members in the Western Region of Ghana by providing training and localized weather forecasting services (including mobile phone alerts), enhanced by four weather stations installed locally in 2018.

To achieve scale, the partners behind CocoaCloud are now calling upon the private sector and donors to support this pre-competitive agri-tech initiative, where a contribution per investor organization of just USD $1.40 per cocoa farmer (or USD $10 per month per ground sensor unit) will yield significant benefits to real-time ground data for improving agricultural productivity and supply chain resilience to climate change.

“CocoaCloud demonstrates our commitment to transforming food systems in key regions using innovative, climate smart solutions. In addition to boosting productivity, CocoaCloud has the potential to enhance ongoing public, private and civil society initiatives in West Africa. We now call for many other organizations to join and benefit from CocoaCloud”, said Peter Bakker, WBCSD’s President and CEO.

A total of 15 partner organizations are required to reach the investment target of USD $1.4m over five years. Kellogg Company, Olam International and Mondelez International have already committed to the scale up of CocoaCloud, which includes a new network of 150 on-ground weather and soil sensors across Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire planned for roll out in late 2019.

“CocoaCloud is a critical tool to support more productive farmers, while safeguarding agricultural landscapes and reducing deforestation and emissions through sustainable intensification”, said Sunny Verghese, CEO of Olam International and WBCSD Chair. “CocoaCloud will improve the understanding  of climate change for cocoa and other crops threatened by a more unpredictable weather pattern in West Africa.”

Passionate about the project, Peter Gibbs, Fellow of The Royal Meteorological Society and Opus Insights’ Meteorological Adviser said: “Without the basic information from weather stations, it’s really difficult to do a useful forecast. Now, back in the UK a forecast is great! It tells you if you’re going to get wet or not. For people farming, it could actually be the difference between life and death. Give them a reliable weather forecast. They’re farmers, they’re the experts. They know what they’re doing. They can use the information to make their lives better.”

“At Kellogg, we share people’s passion about where their food comes from, the people who grow and make it, and that there is enough food for everyone”, said Kris Bahner, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs, Kellogg Company. “CocoaCloud is an outstanding example of innovation and leadership in addressing our common goals to build resilient food systems and support farmers around the world.”

Additional information about CocoaCloud:

  • CocoaCloud generates and gathers data from multiple sources, including satellites and ground sensors, and plans to install a new network of 150 ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) weather and soil sensors in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire.
  • CocoaCloud has been piloted with 500 smallholder farmers in the wider community of 7,500 people in Western Region, Ghana. Since late 2018, weather forecasts are being shared with communities through Whatsapp groups and training for farmer advisor extension agents. CocoaCloud plans to scale operations in the second half of 2019 with network coverage across key growing areas of Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire.
  • CocoaCloud data and related products and services can be accessed: (1) by farmers, through mobile phone and through farmer extension advisers for climate-adapted farming decisions, (2) by companies along the supply chain for better business planning and pricing decisions, (3) by public sector and researchers (4) by other related programs and NGO partners also addressing climate change and productivity in West Africa, (5) by financiers and investors to reduce credit/lending risks and to improve the viability of weather index insurance schemes.
  • Partners involved in CocoaCloud have access to the new data and insights from across the cocoa growing areas of Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire. With access to a dashboard and an Application Program Interface (API) connection, the hourly data from 150 automatic weather stations and interspersed soil moisture sensors will be available to those involved.
  • www.cocoacloud.org

Additional information about climate change in West Africa:

  • Recent studies suggest that cocoa farming in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana will face serious risks from climate change in the next decades due to a decrease in climatic suitability for cocoa, especially in the Northern areas of the cocoa belt, i.e. the transition zone to the savannah regions, driven by increases in temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns (CGIAR, 2018).
  • The West African cocoa belt, reaching from Sierra Leone to southern Cameroon, is the origin of about 70% of the world’s cocoa (Theobroma cacao), which in turn is the basis of the livelihoods of about two million farmers (Schroth et al., 2016).
  • Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are the world’s leading cocoa (Thebroma cacao) producing countries; together they produce 60% of the world’s cocoa (Wessel and Quist-Wessel, 2016).
  • Cocoa contributes 7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Côte d’Ivoire and 3% of that of Ghana, and is an important cash crop for the rural population in the forest zones of these countries, and as a result of unpredictable and drier weather due to climate change, coastal West Africa is forecast to see agricultural productivity losses by 2050 (CGIAR, 2018).
  • There are about 1.5m farming households growing cocoa in Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire. In Côte d’Ivoire, 60% of farmers live below the poverty line, and 24% in Ghana (CGIAR, 2018).
  • In Ghana, more than half of current cocoa production (470,000 tons per year) is located in zones with high future climate risks for cocoa that would require systemic adaptation to climate change, and not adapting to climate change is estimated to create economic losses to the cocoa sector of USD $410 million per year, or 1% of GDP (CGIAR, 2018).
  • In Côte d’Ivoire, a quarter of current annual production (390,000 tons) is located in areas that are projected to be unsuitable under climate change by the 2050s, and the expected cost of inaction on adaptation by the 2050s was estimated at USD $1.1bn per year or 3.9% of current real GDP (CGIAR, 2018).
  • Global forest loss due to cocoa production has been estimated at between 2 to 3 million hectares for the period 1988-2008, equivalent to about 1% of total forest loss over this time. The biggest impact has been in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana where cocoa production is estimated to have been responsible for about one quarter of historical deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire and nearly 15% in the high-forest zone of Ghana (Chatham House, 2019) and low productivity has been a major driver of tropical deforestation in the region as farmers seek to use pristine land rather than increase productivity on the land they already use.

Read original release here.

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