The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Fazer purchases Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa. Jeff Hayward Vice President, Landscapes and Livelihoods sheds light on the Rainforest Alliance and its impact.

What does the Rainforest Alliance certification provide for the farmers?

We support farmers through training and technical assistance in more sustainable agriculture practices, biodiversity conservation, economic development and helps to protect social rights of workers and their families.

Transforming agricultural practices helps farmers improve their yields and quality of their crop so they can reduce costs and increase their income. Certified farmers also protect and restore biodiversity, water resources and soil quality.

Farmers gain improved access to markets through the certification network.

What is the cost of the Rainforest Alliance certification to a farmer?

Cost for certification ranges from US 0.50 – 3,5 per hectare*. This cost can be paid by the producer group or pre-financed by the trader involved.

*Singling out the cost of certification does not give a full picture of the necessary investments for farmers to obtain certification. Most farmers require initial investments to reach compliance level for certification to commence. These indirect costs associated with certification are often much larger than the certification cost.

In short, what are the key criteria regarding following principles:

Rainforest Alliance certification is based on an independent standard developed by Sustainable Agriculture Network SAN the standard is based on the following sustainability principles.

a) People – Criteria covering Fair treatment and good working conditions for workers. Occupational health and Safety, and Community Relations.
b) Planet – Criteria covering Ecosystem and water conservation and program for wildlife protection and integrated waste management system.
c) Profit – Improved agricultural practices to increase yield and quality. Management systems to reduce cost 
d) Traceability - All transactions are registered in a web-based system, which allows product traceability back to the individual farm.

How do you measure the impact created by the Rainforest Alliance?

The Rainforest Alliance continuously directs and/or participates in research studies to evaluate the impact of our work. We collect data and conduct analyses on three levels; Focused Research (impact studies and hypothesis testing), Sampled-, and Program Wide Monitoring where data is collected during technical assistance and audits. A list of on going and recently concluded studies is published on our website.

What is the main impact that you’ve been able to create? What are you most proud of?

Rainforest Alliance reaches more than 1 200 000 farms world wide. Scientific research has shown that Rainforest Alliance Certified farms generally outperform non-certified farms in four key outcome areas;

• Biodiversity conservation,
• Farm productivity and profitability,
• Farmer, worker, and family wellbeing,
• Natural resource conservation

The evidence based on these impacts has let to several collaborations with governments. One example is the benchmark program for Climate Smart Agriculture for cocoa farmers that have been adopted by the Ghanaian government. Research shows yields that are 1.5 to 2 times higher at cocoa farms in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The SAN/Rainforest Alliance Impacts Report 2015 presents an overall portrait of the certification system’s results from 2010-2014.

What is the biggest challenge or area of development for Rainforest Alliance?

The greatest challenge for the Rainforest Alliance is to ensure that we address multiple objectives and risks simultaneously - be it the impacts of climate change; abolishing deforestation and embracing greener consumption; the different stakeholder interests of natural resource management at the landscape level; dealing with the lack of motivation of young people to continue farming; or the continued lack of opportunities for women to participate in decision making and training.

The biggest development of the certification programme in addressing those holistically is the release of the 2017 SAN Standard which aims to support farmers in advancing sustainable livelihoods, improving farm productivity, and becoming more resilient to climate change by building on the guiding principles of effective farm planning and management, protection of biodiversity and natural resources, and improved livelihoods. In addition, a stronger focus and embracing of advances in technology and communications will enable us to track and engage more closely with all supply chain stakeholders.

To make cocoa sustainable, cocoa farming should provide a living income. What is the most efficient action to reach this?

Cocoa farmers stand before a multitude of challenges. There is no single, most efficient, action that will provide a solution.

All actors across the supply chain must work in parallel on many different solutions, Some examples:

  • Better farming practices, implementing climate smart agriculture practices in order to adapt to climate change;
  • Regeneration/replanting of their cocoa trees to allow for increased productivity, quality and more disease/drought resistance;
  • Diversification so cocoa farms can generate other sources of income;
  • Farmers also need training in basic financial literacy skills in order to have access to credits and
  • Chocolate companies needs to do more to provide certainty of prices, and increased prices over the longer term to enable the security cocoa farmers need to invest in their own future,

More information