By Bianca Pasca
With Easter rapidly approaching, you may be looking forward to enjoying some festive chocolate eggs or bunnies. But whether you opt for vegan alternatives or not, you can’t have chocolate without cocoa. The problem is, cocoa farming will be severely affected by the changing climate. And those impacts will have a knock-on effect on the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and their families who produce a big portion of the world’s cocoa.
Climate impacts on cocoa production
Some places are seeing an increase in droughts due to shifting weather patterns. Studies have shown that cocoa yields decrease dramatically in these conditions. A study in Brazil, for example, showed a decline of 89% due to a particularly severe drought caused by the 2015-16 El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). These ENSO events are predicted to increase in frequency as a result of climate change. Ghana and The Ivory Coast, which currently provide approximately 60% of the world’s cocoa supply, may end up being unsuitable for its cultivation by 2050 if temperatures rise by 2◦C, as some models predict. Not only that, but droughts and other unpredictable weather might also trigger a rise in certain fungal diseases or pests, like the cocoa pod borer.
In Indonesia, there has been an increase in rainfall, which lead to landslides and depletion of the top soil, with negative consequences for cocoa plantations. The process of then drying the cocoa beans becomes much harder, too, as they become susceptible to mould growth.
Unsustainable farming practices
Unsustainable farming practices can also be to blame for declines in cocoa production. Excessive herbicide use can harm the land, and also ultimately lead to resistance in certain weeds and pests, damaging the crops in the long run. Deforestation rates (around 2.7% & 2.9% for The Ivory Coast and Ghana, respectively) go up as forests are cleared to make space for crops. Deforestation can be fuelled by the changing climate, with higher temperatures making lower altitudes unsuitable for cocoa production, driving farmers further up the slopes. Unfortunately, deforestation itself contributes to the climate crisis, creating a vicious cycle.
So what are some of the solutions?
So, next time you go Easter egg hunting, maybe you’ll remember that to keep them coming in years to come, you might want to hunt down the ones that are certified as sustainably sourced.
OCS Media Team
The latest in climate science, policy, perspectives and more from the OCS team.