Raising the bar: Geo-mapping our way to 100% traceability
At Whittaker’s, our ambition is to make sure our Chocolate Lovers get the most delicious fix in the most sustainable way. This is why we geo-mapped cocoa farms in Ghana so we can trace cocoa beans from farm level all the way through the supply chain to help prevent deforestation. In 2021, we achieved 100% traceability in Samoa. In 2022, we achieved 100% traceability to Identity Preserved (IP) level in Ghana – the gold standard of traceability!
Why Ghana matters
For most of our cocoa, we head to Ghana because their hand-picked cocoa pods are simply the world’s best.
Ghana is one of the two largest producers of cocoa in the world. Due to the growing global demand for cocoa beans, vast tracts of forest areas have been cut down to expand cocoa plantations. We want to make sure cocoa growers in Ghana can continue to thrive while leaving protected forests untouched.
West Africa has lost 90% of its original forest and what remains is heavily fragmented and degraded. Ghana alone has lost more than 33.7% (2.5 million hectares) of its forest since the early 1990s. By geo-mapping the cocoa farms we buy our cocoa beans from, we can help preserve the natural forests and identify ways we can support our growers and their communities, such as training or building washrooms in local schools.
What is geo-mapping?
Geo-mapping is a process of taking land-based data (e.g. addresses of farms) and using this to create a standard mapped area. By overlaying a GPS map of the same area (with land-based portable GPS units), we can create a moment in time where farm and GPS data should match. It’s all very technical, but by looking at this data, we’re able to see trends such as any movements of land, change of addresses, or additional farm sites and new buildings and take any necessary action. For instance, if a farmer encroaches into possible protected forest land, the geo map could flag this as something to investigate.
We also use this data to understand the challenges that cocoa farms and their farmers face so we can offer the best support through development plans and training. Ultimately, geo-mapping
helps to increase the overall transparency of the cocoa supply chain by enabling us to trace certified beans back to the farm and provide detailed information on how they were grown.
Geo-mapping helps us:
- to record a farm’s precise boundary and ensure cocoa is not sourced from protected areas,
- to better monitor tree cover and prevent further deforestation,
- to more efficiently trace and audit the cocoa we buy, back to the cooperatives we bought it from, and the groups of farms it was originally harvested.
We’ve invested significantly in geo-mapping the 2,500+ cocoa farms we source from. In 2020, we funded the mapping of the cooperatives in the Assin Fosu and Asankrangwa regions. It took 6 weeks, with surveyors going to each farm using GPS measuring sticks to measure every acre.
We also co-funded the digitalisation of the co-ops’ IMS (Internal Management System) to improve the credibility and accuracy of farmer and transparency data.
But we don’t do it on our own. We proudly partner with Rainforest Alliance, a global not for profit organisation that works with companies like ourselves and farming communities to promote human rights and protect forested areas. Working with them means we use only 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Ghanaian cocoa beans which benefits cocoa farmers in Ghana specifically, complementing our other initiatives to build direct relationships with the farmers we buy cocoa beans from.
How we do it
Tracing cocoa beans to the farm level is particularly difficult in the West African cocoa sector because production is spread among millions of small farms of three to five hectares.
Cacao is generally produced on small farms because it’s difficult to introduce machines to do the work. Cacao trees need regular pruning and treatments to fight pests and disease, and the fruit that produces cocoa beans doesn’t ripen at the same time, so farmers must harvest by hand.
Cocoa beans timeline
- Farmers grow the cocoa beans.
- Farmers harvest the crop, ferment and dry the cocoa beans, ready for sale.
- Farmers bring their dried cocoa beans to a co-operative for sale. They are paid a fixed price for their cocoa beans, set annually by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), the Ghanian government agency responsible for the development of the cocoa industry. All bean purchases are recorded by the co-operative, meaning that for each consignment of beans, there is an account of all of the farmers who contributed to the consignment.
- The sacks of cocoa beans are then sold to COCOBOD through LBCs (Licensed Buying Companies). On arrival at LBC district depots, the cocoa beans undergo quality testing. On passing quality tests, each bag is numbered and sealed. The markings on a sack give information about its source and quality test results.
- The cocoa beans are then moved to port for final checks. All arrivals are check-sampled and a certificate is issued for cocoa beans of acceptable quality. A traceability certificate is also issued that details all of the co-operatives where the beans in the consignment were sourced from.
- COCOBOD sells the beans on the global marketplace.
Additional measures are taken throughout the supply chain to prevent mixing of traceable and non-traceable cocoa beans. Traceable beans are transported on dedicated trucks, and are stored separately from non-traceable beans all the way through the supply chain. At port, sacks of traceable cocoa beans are stacked in a separate warehouse space from other cocoa. The stacks are on a per client basis, with each client having a distinct and segregated stack. Regular audits are carried out to ensure these measures are being adhered to.
We buy cocoa beans from two farm cooperatives: Assin North iMPACT Cooperative Cocoa Farmers Union Ltd and Asankrangwa iMPACT Cooperative Cocoa Farmers Union Ltd. Thanks to Chocolate Lovers like you, the volume of beans we buy is increasing, so a third cooperative (Tarkwa-Huni Sustainable Cocoa Farmers Union) has now been approved as another Whittaker’s supplier. They’ve also been fully audited and approved by the Rainforest Alliance, and have had their farms geo-mapped.
Good for our farmers, our Chocolate Lovers & the world
We know our faithful Chocolate Lovers love our chocolate because of our commitment to sustainability. The geo-mapping we do in Ghana enables us to make our chocolate with the highest quality cocoa and the highest level of traceability in the cocoa bean supply chain– “Identity Preserved”(IP).
For cocoa beans making their way to Whittaker’s, 100% are traceable to the farm they were grown in. This level of traceability also lets us know exactly what price we pay for our IP cocoa beans, and means we can directly help the livelihood of the farmers in the cooperatives we work with. This means you can be sure that the chocolate you’re eating is ethically sourced from farm to bean, bean to bar, and bar to you!
Our dedication to creating ethical chocolate is why we’re named one of four global industry leaders in the 2022 Chocolate Scorecard and why we’re Reader’s Digest’s Most Trusted Brand for the 12th year in a row. We couldn’t be more chuffed by these honours, but we don’t do it for the accolades – we do it for the good of our cocoa farmers and their communities, and Chocolate Lovers like you.