Space tech set to help combat cocoa-fuelled deforestation

UK Space Agency’s pioneering Forests 2020 Project enables cocoa buyers to plot supply chain data onto satellite and LiDAR map

Edinburgh, 3 April 2019: African Governments and the world’s cocoa companies are to be handed a crucial new tool in their battle to end deforestation caused by their supply chains. Using satellite derived information from the UK Space Agency’s Forests 2020 Project, led by Ecometrica, the Ghana Forestry Commission has been supported in the development of a landscape-level map that separates cocoa from forestry, which is critical to measure how cocoa is driving deforestation.

With over two million small-scale farmers growing cocoa in the Ivory Coast and Ghana - the world’s biggest producers - it has proven difficult to track where each bean is coming from and therefore exert pressure on suppliers to end unsustainable practices.

’Big cocoa’ has pledged to stamp out unsustainable farming methods that involve the destruction of protected rainforests in West Africa via the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), but it has proved a difficult task for an industry served by millions of small farmers in the region. In a further development, Ecometrica, the downstream space information company, which leads the Forests 2020 project to monitor tropical forests using satellite technology, is bringing together its innovative platform with new, more detailed land cover map to enable cocoa companies to securely plot their supply chain and assess their impact on protected areas.

Dr Richard Tipper, chairman of Ecometrica, said: “Cocoa and chocolate companies recognise the importance of sustainability and have clearly pledged to end deforestation caused by their industry. However, this it has proven a difficult task because companies lacked the information to assess the effectiveness of their policies. The Ecometrica Platform will allow organisations to plot their own commercially confidential data onto the forest maps we are already creating with Forests 2020. 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.”

Commitments to eliminate deforestation from the cocoa supply chain have proven hard to implement due to the lack of available, robust data. As a shade loving crop, cocoa is grown underneath the forest canopy and can be difficult to identify from traditional satellite monitoring. Traceability of individual batches of cocoa beans continues to represent a significant challenge, alongside the need to balance the livelihoods of millions of smallholders and preserve their natural environment.

The cooperation of governments, NGOs and cocoa buyers has long been regarded as a crucial factor in driving sustainability. However, without access to accurate information, this has proved a steep challenge.

Ecometrica is planning to add a further layer of information to the system in the coming months, using aircraft equipped with LiDAR, a method that can see through foliage to give a detailed 3D impression of a forest’s health and possible crops growing under the canopy. This will allow the project to further support the Government of Ghana in its commitment to the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a joint pledge by the government and cocoa companies to reduce the impact of growing cocoa on natural forest in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire.

The Ecometrica Platform will offer companies a constantly-updated picture of West African forests, gathered from space, LiDAR aircraft and on the ground by the Forests 2020 project, and allow this to be analysed in the context of their own known supply chains.  Evidence of deforestation that is observed near supplying farms can then be further investigated.

The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world’s two largest cocoa growing countries but elsewhere in Africa, Asia and Central America, livelihoods depend on this valuable crop. Ecometrica’s global reach, monitoring the health of the earth from space, is also giving other regions the scope to better understand the impact of cocoa production and combat the destruction of protected rainforests.

 

Picture caption:

 

Fermented cocoa beans drying in Ghanaian sunshine (pic: Lewis Rattray).  Forests 2020, a UK Space Agency-backed project, led by Ecometrica, to monitor tropical forests using satellite technology, has launched a pioneering new tool to help African governments and the world’s cocoa companies in their battle to end deforestation caused by their supply chains. The Ecometrica Platform will provide a constantly-updated picture of West African forests, gathered from space, LiDAR aircraft and on the ground by the Forests 2020 project.

 

For further information

Denise Hannestad, The Communications Business . Tel +44 131 208 1500. DeniseH @ thecommunicationsbusiness.com

 

About Ecometrica

Ecometrica, the downstream space and sustainability company, turns the vast and growing streams of observation data from space, air and land into actionable insights for business, government and society.

A leading provider of sustainability and earth observation services, its satellite mapping technology is being used to protect 300 million hectares of tropical forests as part of the Forests 2020 project, which Ecometrica is spearheading on behalf of the UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme (IPP).

Ecometrica is one of the world’s top sustainability brands, as named by industry analyst Verdantix. It is the only CDP Gold Software Partner for its climate change, forests and water programmes. Ecometrica's geospatial data mapping services, which support all aspects of sustainability planning, operations and reporting by businesses and public organisations, are available worldwide, through offices in the UK, USA, Canada and Mexico.

The firm is a winner of the prestigious Environmental Leader Product of the Year Award two years in a row, for its Ecometrica Platform. It is also ranked on the FT1000 list of Europe's fastest growing companies and Deloitte's Technology Fast 500.

Founded in 2008, Ecometrica’s formidable story derives directly from the vision of its founding members and leadership - executive chairman Dr Richard Tipper, chief executive Gary Davis and chief product officer Bertrand Revenaz. Backed by a team of recognised experts, Ecometrica has unrivalled experience in environmental sustainability accounting and reporting.

The Ecometrica Platform, a web-based accounting and sustainability management solution, combines earth observation data from satellites with local information and business intelligence, to bring clarity to environmental and natural resource challenges facing corporates and governments alike. It helps businesses to easily track and map their impact on natural capital assets, like forests and water, tracking supply chain activity, verifying sustainable product sourcing, and environmental reporting to established sustainability frameworks. It makes the terabytes of raw data being sent to Earth by satellites easily accessible, bringing limitless possibilities for its application. It is the only sustainability software solution with audit-ready assurance from a Big Four auditor (PwC). For the largest customers who get their accounts externally audited, this means avoiding costly pre-audit fees that often run into hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.



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