Skip to content

Agroforestry in action: supporting cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire


Our agroforestry initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire are regenerating the local environment and providing tools to help improve cocoa farmers’ livelihoods.

Farmer holding cocoa beans, Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s biggest cocoa producer, exporting 1.5 million tonnes every year1. Farming cocoa beans plays a vital role in the region’s economy, contributing 15% of the country’s GDP and employing one-quarter of the population2.

But agricultural expansion has not been without cost, causing 25% of the country’s primary forest cover to disappear between 2002 and 20193.

Cocoa farmers’ pay has not reflected their product’s popularity. Millions of these farmers don’t earn a living income and, on average, earn just 6% of the final value of a chocolate bar.

As a cocoa buyer, Unilever wants to help redress the balance. That’s why we’re working with partners on the ground, supporting agroforestry programmes that empower farmers to use better farming practices that benefit people and planet.

Boosting cocoa supplies by planting trees

Our integrated agroforestry approach helps to restore degraded land, improves forest cover and promotes sustainable agriculture. It also increases farmers’ awareness of the challenges posed by deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices.

The programme does this by providing tools that will help improve farmers’ livelihoods, such as training on climate-smart agricultural practices. It also helps communities to develop their own plant nurseries to cultivate tree seedlings, which the farmers then plant. They can choose which type of tree they want to plant, under guidance from our local implementation partners. Different species provide different benefits, from trees that help rebuild the forest canopy (shade trees) or restore soil through nitrogen provision (plants that produce peas, beans or lentils) to fruit trees that provide farmers with crops to eat or sell. Some also have cultural value to local communities (community and ancestor forests).

The benefits of agroforestry are wide-ranging. By supporting farmers to raise their income levels and diversify their crops, this kind of farming lessens the incentive for farmers to expand their farmland into forest areas. To ensure farmers have the right incentives to invest in their farms, we’re also supporting farmers to secure rights to their land.

We’ve also been mapping our direct cocoa supply chain, together with our suppliers, to improve traceability and better understand where our cocoa comes from. And 96% of the farm plots in our direct sourcing have already been mapped to date. These results will enable us to better define deforestation risk and to identify issues on the ground that require remediation.

Our combined approach to supporting smallholder livelihoods and embedding sustainable farming practices will ensure our suppliers – and therefore our business – have access to a sustainable supply of deforestation-free cocoa in line with our goal in the Unilever Compass. At Unilever, we’re working towards a future where deforestation-free is the only way we operate.

Building resilience and supporting farmers

A female farmer looks at the camera and smiles whilst sorting cocoa beans in a bowl

Megan Willis, Head of Sustainable Sourcing, Living Income and Nature, explains. “Ensuring we have a sustainable and deforestation-free supply chain means not just protecting the environment, but also supporting farmers to strengthen their livelihoods and continue looking after the land they work with,” she says.

Agroforestry is an important part of our approach to cocoa sourcing that will help Unilever build a more resilient cocoa supply chain, while benefiting smallholder farmers and nature.

Megan Willis, Head of Sustainable Sourcing, Living Income and Nature

We launched our Cocoa Remediation Programme in Côte d’Ivoire in 2021 as part of our commitment to the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI). Unilever is one of 37 signatories who are working alongside the CFI to help end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain, beginning in Côte d’Ivoire. The programme, which continues to grow every year, is expected to benefit 2,250 farmers in our supply chain and we are on track to meet our target to distribute 400,000 trees by end of 2023.

Find out more about our work towards a deforestation-free supply chain

Back to top