Fri. Dec 8th, 2023
Fairtrade Expands Satellite Monitoring to Combat Deforestation and Access European Markets

Fairtrade is partnering with Satelligence to scale up satellite monitoring to over one million cocoa and coffee producers. The initiative aims to address anti-deforestation practices and facilitate greater access to European markets amid stricter regulations.

Through this program, Fairtrade co-operatives will receive improved data on their members’ farms and deforestation risks. Farmers cultivating a total of 2.5 million hectares can then share this data with their commercial partners. Access to such data will allow them to enter international markets as more countries tighten their anti-deforestation requirements.

The move is a response to concerns that smallholders, particularly in major sourcing countries across Africa and Asia, may face exclusion from EU markets if they fail to meet the bloc’s stringent anti-deforestation demands. The European Union’s deforestation-free products regulation, which came into effect in June, mandates companies trading in or with EU members to conduct mandatory deforestation and forest degradation assessments on global suppliers.

Jon Walker, senior advisor for cocoa at Fairtrade International, highlighted the importance of this partnership in providing fair access to market data. This partnership will enable producer organizations and their smallholder members to have access to crucial risk management data and identify potential risks.

The system works by detecting deforestation activities within the boundaries of co-operatives and verifying whether farms are located in protected areas. It also flags any deforestation near the farms, aiding in risk assessments. The software generates reports that farmers can utilize for various purposes or share with their customers.

The Satelligence program was initially piloted in the Ivory Coast and Ghana last year, testing geolocation and monitoring functionalities for cocoa co-operatives. The new three-year partnership aims to include all Fairtrade-certified cocoa and coffee producer organizations by 2025.

Niels Wielaard, Satelligence CEO, emphasized that this collaboration would prevent farmers from being marginalized and grant them access to markets by providing proof of their deforestation-free goods. Wielaard also called for increased investment in smallholders, particularly in high deforestation-risk regions.

The UK is expected to follow the EU’s lead with an anticipated amendment to its Environment Act, which would require companies to ensure their direct and indirect suppliers maintain “deforestation-free supply chains.” However, the timeline for implementing this amendment remains uncertain.

Recently, leading British supermarkets, many of which trade with the EU or collaborate with suppliers who must adhere to these regulations, urged the UK government to align with the EU’s deforestation rules. In a letter sent to environment minister Thérèse Coffey, supermarkets including Tesco, M&S, and Aldi warned of potential export difficulties for British-made produce without accelerated anti-deforestation legislation.