Cocoa farmers deserve more
The chocolate industry is worth £4billion in the UK and no wonder. The stuff is delicious: sweet, warming, a treat after a hard day at work - or a break up. But, as we’re discovering across other industries, chocolate’s dark side is very dark indeed and the people who grow, harvest and process it are living very different lives to those enjoying the fruits of their labour.
By BEL JACOBS
In West Africa, where 60 per cent of cocoa is grown, many cocoa farmers are struggling on as little as 75p a day. Well below the world’s extreme poverty line, that wage means that they can’t pay for essentials like food; they can’t send their kids to school, they can’t buy medicines if they fall sick - and they definitely can’t stop working. They don’t even use cocoa - and they certainly don’t relax at the end of the day with a bar of Dairy Milk. The irony is pitiful.
Now, a new report by Fairtrade International and by the ISEAL Alliance is calling on the UK Government and companies to make sure cocoa farmers earn living incomes. Those sum aren’t much: for around just £1.86 per day, the average price of a large bar of chocolate, those same farmers could live a simple but dignified life, paying for essentials such as clothing, medicine and school.
Obviously, this means prices have to go up but, to be frank, we in the West have had it too cheap and too easy for too long. Later this year, Fairtrade is raising its Minimum Price and Premium to reflect this. That’s good news but only for a few. Currently, only six per cent of cocoa globally is Fairtrade-certified and, without collective action from the government, industry and consumers, most of the world’s cocoa farmers will go unheard.
And, as usual, it is the women who bear the heaviest burdens. Women often plant and harvest on the farm, look after children, carry water, collect wood, cook and clean for the family, and transport the cocoa beans to market but they have far fewer rights than men. Plus they rarely own land, which means they get even less of the profits from cocoa.
The report, “Craving change in chocolate: How to secure a living income for cocoa farmers”, outlines the problems facing farmers in West Africa, which range widely from issues of deforestation to child labour. It also illustrates the concrete help and support that Fairtrade can give. Since joining a Fairtrade co-operative, Rosine Bekoin has seen her own income double and is now inspiring others in her community as role model.
Bekoin leads a Women’s Society which supports women to use the Fairtrade Premium, the additional sum of money Fairtrade growers get on top of cocoa sales, to set up other small businesses. ‘[The] Premium encourages us, as women cocoa farmers, to be able to achieve certain things,” she says. “It has helped us educate our children and build for the future. With the Premium, for each woman, you can do what is in your heart.”
“As a nation of chocolate lovers, it is shocking that the women who grow and harvest the cocoa that goes into our treats are barely able to put food on the table nor send their kids to school,” says Fairtrade Foundation CEO Michael Gidney. “Most of us think the exploitation they suffer is unacceptable. We can all take action today by supporting this campaign and by putting Fairtrade chocolate in our shopping baskets.”
To raise awareness of the challenges faced by women cocoa farmers, during the two weeks of Fairtrade Fortnight 2019, Fairtrade Foundation’s “She Deserves”campaign will tell the story of the lives of cocoa farmers in Côte D'Ivoire, through the eyes of women. Companies are listening with groups such as Waitrose & Partners, the Co-op, Ben & Jerry’s, Divine Chocolate, Mars, Greggs, Starbucks and others sourcing Fairtrade cocoa.
And with Fairtrade’s new Minimum Price, coming in October, farmers will benefit from a 20% increase in value. But there is more to be done, says Gidney: “Everyone is entitled to a decent income. It is a human right. [The UK has] signed up to end poverty by 2030, but that won’t happen unless people earn more for the work they do. We’re calling on governments, businesses and the public to pledge to make living incomes a reality.”