The long wait is over and you can now buy chocolate bars made from forest-friendly cocoa grown by the communities living around the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone. Our Gola Rainforest chocolate is now available to buy online and will be in our shops on our nature reserves in the next days.
This is a great achievement and is a result of five years hard work by our team working with farmers who live in and around Gola.
So why did we do it?
We know that Cocoa farming has resulted in the loss of over 2.3 million hectares of primary rainforest in the Upper Guinea Forest Belt in just 20 years.
Faced with ageing trees and without access to agro-forestry know-how, cocoa farmers in West Africa have been driven to clearing forest to grow enough cocoa to make a living. This has been exacerbated by the development of sun-tolerant hybrid trees, which can grow in plantation-style farms, unlike traditional cocoa which grows best when surrounded by other forest trees.
Traditionally, chocolate is made from a mixture of cocoa liquor and cocoa butter (both extracted from the cocoa bean). The cocoa butter acts as an emulsifier to create that silky smooth texture. But manufacturers will often use ingredients like palm oil and soya, instead of cocoa butter, to bring down costs and increase profit margins. Often these added ingredients are not sustainably sourced.
When grown in a traditional way, shade grown cocoa farms support significant forest biodiversity, similar to that found within other forest habitats, and may play an important role in connecting pockets of primary forest.
Since 2013, the RSPB has been investigating the biodiversity value of different types of habitat found around Gola. The results indicate that forest-dependent bird communities on cocoa farms were similar to those found within the National Park and other forest habitats, whereas bird communities in other farmland habitats were distinctly less diverse. This suggests that shade-grown cocoa represents a good proxy for forest habitat and could play an important role in connecting areas of primary forest. Furthermore, shade grown cocoa provides economic value to a standing forest, minimising the risk of it being cleared.
Cocoa farmers receive a small percentage of the value of a chocolate bar usually between 3% and 5% of the value of the bar.
I saw this production process for myself when I visited Gola last year and was humbled to see the impact that this programme is having on the lives of the local people and proud that the RSPB has been at the heart of this from the beginning.
As one local chief said, “The forest gives life. When we took the trees down, the streams and rivers dried up. We know we must change. We are now the best advocates for Gola Rainforest.”
The UK is the fourth largest consumer of chocolate in the world. We want that chocolate consumption to do good and to help save the planet’s remaining rainforest. That’s why we are determined to make the Gola chocolate brand a success and will continue to work with the Gola communities.
In summary, Gola chocolate…
So go on, buy some Gola chocolate, eat it and help save an incredible rainforest.
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