Space tech to ensure sustainable cocoa supplies

Advanced satellite technology is being used to tackle deforestation in Africa linked to cocoa supply chains.

Using satellite derived information from the UK Space Agency’s Forests 2020 Project, led by the space information company Ecometrica, the new Ecometrica Platform will provide a constantly-updated picture of West African forests, gathered from space, LiDAR aircraft and on the ground. When coupled with a detailed land cover map, cocoa companies will be able to securely plot their supply chain and assess their impact on protected areas.

Over two million small-scale farmers grow cocoa in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s biggest producers, however it has proven difficult to track where each bean is coming from and therefore identify which suppliers are involved in unsustainable practices. This is despite pledges by large cocoa companies to stamp out unsustainable farming methods that involve the destruction of protected rainforests in West Africa via the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI).

As a shade loving crop, cocoa is grown underneath the forest canopy and can be difficult to identify from traditional satellite monitoring.

The landscape-level map separates cocoa production from forestry, which is critical to measure how cocoa is driving deforestation.

“The Ecometrica Platform will allow organisations to plot their own commercially confidential data onto the forest maps we are already creating with Forests 2020,” said Dr Richard Tipper, chairman of Ecometrica. “This will offer a unified insight into what is actually happening in the vicinity of known suppliers, especially where legitimate farms border protected forests, and will therefore play an important role in helping companies and governments to sensitively tackle the complexity of ensuring supplies come from sustainable sources.”

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