As delicious as chocolate is, some of the challenges faced by cocoa farmers can leave a very bitter aftertaste.
Farmers can work long hours in poor conditions for low pay, and cocoa is a crop that’s vulnerable to disease, extreme weather, and a reduction in the size of suitable growing land due to climate change.
It’s also an industry known for its use of child labour.
Globally, the agriculture industry accounts for 108 million child labourers aged between five and 17 years old, or 71 percent of children around the world involved in illegal work.
At Fairtrade believe children have the right to a childhood, so we work with farmers and their cooperatives to make sure children are safe from exploitation.
In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, there’s a union made up of 23 cocoa-growing cooperatives – covering 10,000 individual farmers – called ECOOKIM.
The average farmer works a plot of 3.5ha and produces about 680kg of cocoa per hectare of land, and the market stability provided by selling at the Fairtrade Minimum Price, and receiving the Fairtrade Premium, has helped them invest in what was an uncertain future.
As well as tools and training, the community has funded a local school to make sure its children get an education, as well as a pilot program to prevent child labour and exploitation. It’s a program that has so far benefitted more than 9,400 children.
And it’s benefitting the industry. By bolstering skills, profits and living standards, ECOOKIM and Fairtrade are making cocoa-growing a sustainable industry, and one the will hopefully entice the next generation into farming.
Siaka (main image) is an ECOOKIM member and cocoa quality expert who says much has changed over the past few years, and when he first started the drying process was beset with problems like mould and damp. But the cocoa itself isn’t the only thing that’s improved.
“For me, Fairtrade is about having a strong organisation and good quality cocoa, which is grown in a safe and healthy environment and without child labour.
“Today, with the training that we provide, 90% of members are able to produce the right quality of cocoa.
“We could grow a lot of high quality cocoa in this region.
“We would like to sell more as Fairtrade so that we can advance, make more money with new customers, and grow as an organisation.”