How do we sustain a growing population without sacrificing our natural resources?’ Olam Cocoa CEO Gerry Manley ponders this question as part of the World Economic Forum’s insight series ahead of Davos 2020
The world’s food needs are skyrocketing. By 2050, there will be another 2 billion mouths to feed, placing a huge strain on agribusiness globally. The urgent question is: How do we sustain a growing population without sacrificing our natural resources?
Regrettably, forests have already fallen victim to this global struggle. According to the World Bank, an area larger than South Africa (1.3 million square kilometres) of forest was lost between 1990 and 2016. Eight out of 10 species found on land live in forests, making them one of the earth’s richest ecosystems. Not only that, but with CO2 emissions soaring and the planet’s temperature rising, their role as the earth’s lungs have never been more vital.
How did we get to the point of destroying our lungs to feed ourselves? Agriculture has played a significant role in the rate of deforestation, as trees have been cleared to make way for livestock and food crops. Those in the industry are only too aware of the fine balance between creating sustainable livelihoods for communities who rely on farming for their survival and preserving forest landscapes for future generations. In cocoa specifically, this issue is particularly acute, because 90% of the world’s supply is grown on small family farms. The decision to expand cocoa farms into protected forest areas have often been driven by factors beyond a farmer’s control, namely extreme poverty. Farmers have sought to meet high demand for cocoa or counteract low yields by planting in the nutrient-dense soil and natural shade of the forest.
Agriculture, and industries like cocoa can, and are, playing a major role in stopping and eventually reversing the loss of the world’s forests. The solution can be broken down into three areas: preservation and rehabilitation; pre-emptive action; and cultural change.