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Friday, September 15, 2017

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The world's chocolate industry is driving deforestation on a devastating scale in West Africa.

Cocoa traders who sell to Mars, Nestle, Mondelez and other big brands buy beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960.

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Up to 70% of the world's cocoa is produced by 2 million farmers in a belt that stretches from Sierra Leone to Cameroon, but Ivory Coast and Ghana are the giants, the world's first and second biggest producers. They are also the biggest victims of deforestation. Ivory Coast is losing its forests at a faster rate than any other African country - less than 4% of the country is covered in rainforest. Once, one quarter was.

The ballooning global demand for chocolate means that if nothing is done, by 2030 there will be no forest left, according to the environmental group Mighty Earth which today publishes an investigation into deforestation caused by chocolate. The final, insulting irony is that locals are so poor they could never afford to eat a Mars bar.

In recent years, the annual rate of deforestation inside parks has doubled, and in both Ivory Coast and Ghana, it is going twice as fast as deforestation in unprotected areas.

Cocoa is a monster that will eventually eat itself, scientists say. Farmers will miss the trees they cut and burned down for the very reason that their shade would have protected their cocoa plants from increasingly parched, dry seasons, driven by cutting down trees.