West-African cocoa farms are still impoverished 10 years on
Child labour is at “very high levels” in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, a recent report states.
According to the ‘Cocoa Barometer 2018’, child labour is a result of structural poverty, increased cocoa production and a lack of schools and other infrastructure. The Barometer points out that no company or government is close to reaching the sector-wide objective of eliminating child labour, and that government commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020 is also looking unlikely.
In addition, the report highlights that smallholder cocoa farmers are struggling with poverty, witnessing an income decline by almost 40% within a couple of months.
This is excluding Ghana, where the report states the government is subsidising the cocoa price indirectly.
Authors of the report, Antonie Fountain and Friedel Huetz-Adams write that although prices are climbing again, “farmers bear the risks of volatile price” and believe that there is no “concerted effort” by industry or governments to “alleviate even a part of the burden of this income shock”.
The Cocoa Barometer points blame to a strong increase of cocoa production in the past years, driven by new production areas set up at the expense of native forests.
This is in addition to “corporate disinterest” in the environmental effects of the supply of cheap cocoa and an “absent government enforcement of environmentally protected areas. In light of this, over 90% of West Africa’s original forests are gone, the report reads.
Antonie Fountain and Friedel Huetz-Adams go on to say that efforts to improve the lives of farmers, communities and the environment are having very little impact and that the “scope of proposed solutions is not even in the ballpark of addressing the scope of the problem”.
The report states that programmes in cocoa are currently focusing on technical solutions around farming practices, but the problems lie with “power and political economy”. For example, how the market defines price, the lack of bargaining power that famers have, and a “lack of transparency and accountability of both governments and companies”.
The report concludes that if “business as usual” continues, it will be decades – if ever – before human rights will be respected and before environmental protection will be a “basis for sustainability in the cocoa sector”. In addition, investments to make cocoa production more sustainable are too low to have a sufficient impact and there is a lack of “alignment or ambition” to tackle the sector’s challenges.The Cocoa Barometer 2018 gives an overview of sustainability developments in the cocoa sector. The authors have chosen to focus on west Africa, because of its dominance in cocoa production and the significant challenges it faces. The two special thematic focus points of this Barometer are “Ensuring a Living Income” and “Transparency and Accountability”.
For more on the plight of the cocoa sector, as set out in the report, please see the June issue of Kennedy's Confection for a more detailed account. The Cocoa Barometer 2018 will also be discussed in more detail at the London Chocolate Forum 11th October.
For more information, visit: www.londonchocolateforum.com