World Environment Day: Treat or threat?

5 June 2022


This World Environment Day you can be 100% forest friendly and help protect chimpanzees and gorillas when you choose shade-grown cocoa and coffee.

A primate sitting alone in the dense jungle undergrowth

The chocolate and coffee you choose can make a great (ape) difference! To celebrate World Environment Day, we can all enjoy sustainable, forest-friendly, ethical brands that help protect rare species including gorillas and chimpanzees, and provide farmers with a fair income.

Make sure your choccie treats and favourite expresso or latte are made from fairly traded, shade-grown cocoa and coffee beans. Cocoa and coffee grow naturally in tropical climate zones and thrive under shaded canopies. Tropical rainforests are home to half of all animal and plant species and play a vital role in carbon storage, clean air and water cycling.

But, due to increased global demand for cocoa and coffee, from the 1970s farmers have been encouraged to clear vast tracts of forest to cultivate sun-grown, monoculture plantations. Yet, there are many benefits to shade-grown, responsibly produced, shade-grown cocoa and coffee. Shady conditions promote slow growth, resulting in arguably a richer, better flavour. By protecting and replanting trees, farmers can provide habitat for insects, birds and mammals and connect fragmented tracts of forest. More trees can help prevent soil erosion and act as a carbon sink.

Born Free helps farmers to cultivate shade-grown coffee in a vital forest corridor in Uganda which links two major chimpanzee habitats. The Bulindi Chimpanzee & Community Project provides local farmers with native tree seedlings to help reforest the area, as well as fast-growing eucalyptus seedlings for sustainable wood production and thousands of coffee plants to cultivate as a cash crop. Whilst chimpanzees habitually eat other cash crops such as sugarcane, banana and mango, they don’t eat coffee plants which means they can peacefully co-exist with farmers.

Meanwhile in Cameroon, Born Free’s new Guardians of Dja conservation project is working to protect gorillas, chimpanzee and other rare forest species. The project will help farmers convert subsistence activities into sustainable trade to provide reliable income and reduce reliance on natural resources. We will train school graduates in cocoa agroforestry and provide materials for shade-grown cocoa production. But, cocoa can take several years to yield so we will also offer the wider community the opportunity to cultivate pepper, which matures within one year, can be grown chemical free on village fallows to limit deforestation and sells well – providing vital income.