To mark the United Nations’ International Day of Education, Olam Cocoa has today announced plans to extend an innovative education programme that teaches school children from farming communities in Côte d'Ivoire about the devastating impact of climate change and deforestation.
This comes as the UN convenes government, NGO and industry leaders in Paris to reaffirm the role education plays in developing the skills, tools and ideas needed to put an end to unsustainable practices and help humans to live in greater harmony with the natural world.
Five schools – comprising of almost 1,000 school children – have participated in the programme so far, and Olam Cocoa is working in partnership with Rainforest Alliance and the Côte d'Ivoire government, with funding from the UK government’s Darwin Initiative, to extend it to three more this year. The programme is focused on educating the next generation in sustainable, climate-smart practices and encouraging them to share that knowledge with their families, it will contribute to efforts to eradicate deforestation in the country, which has lost its forests faster than any other African country1.
The reasons behind the dramatic rate of forest loss are complex. Many smallholder farmers in the region make their living from growing cocoa, but the majority own a relatively small amount of land and yields are often not large enough for them to generate a living income that will fully support their families. Often those yields could be improved by adapting simple farming techniques, but a lack of knowledge means that many farmers instead resort to clearing more land, leading to deforestation and a loss of biodiversity.
As part of the programme, school children will be taught about protecting the environment and the importance of trees. Learning will be hands on as they are asked to maintain a shade tree nursery, plant trees and build awareness in their communities. Children will receive rewards for conservation activities, including school supply kits, watering cans, school uniforms, painting pots, and sports equipment.
Danièle Kouassi, Head of Cocoa Sustainability in Côte d’Ivoire, at Olam Cocoa, said: “We believe that educating young people and empowering them to become sustainability champions in their communities is key to tackling the problem. We are already working directly with farmers to provide training and resources. By tapping into the interest children and teachers have in protecting the environment, we know we can have an impact that extends much further. I would like to thank the local administrative authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, namely the Ministry of Education and L’Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Reserves for their valuable contributions to this effort.”
Nanga Kone, Rainforest Alliance Country Manager for Côte d’Ivoire, said: “Educating children on the value of trees and teaching them to grow forest tree seedlings in a nursery has a double benefit – not only for the students’ education but also in reinforcing the messaging to farmers, because the children go home and talk to their parents about what they are doing at school.”
This is just the latest initiative from Olam Cocoa, which last year launched Cocoa Compass, its sustainability ambition for the future of the cocoa sector. Cocoa Compass commits to improving farmer livelihoods, ensuring all children of cocoa farmers have access to education, protecting forests through a net increase in tree carbon stock, and reducing natural capital costs by 30%. In Côte d'Ivoire, Olam Cocoa has already worked with the government and farming communities to plant 600,000 trees.
 European Union data shows Côte d'Ivoire has lost four-fifths of its forest cover since 1960, a faster rate of deforestation than any other African country.