Thousands of cocoa farmers are often left struggling to survive on a daily wage that is lower than the price of a chocolate bar. Now, as Nestlé break away from Fairtrade, the future of the world’s most vulnerable farmers is even more uncertain.
Chances are, the last chocolate bar you ate was made with cocoa from Ivory Coast – their farmers produce the majority of all cocoa worldwide.
Farmers like Patrick, who was taught how to grow cocoa by his father as a young boy and still grows it to this day. However, he was not making enough money from cocoa farming to feed his family all year round.
Finding new ways to make money
Patrick started branching out after being part of a training group run by Tearfund’s local partner. They coached him on how to grow different crops for profit, and also gave him tips on how to increase his cocoa production with compost and new farming techniques.
Patrick set to work planting rice and okra between his cocoa plants. He soon had enough for his family to eat and sell during all seasons.
‘I diversified my crops and harvested more products than before. My family is happier,’ says Patrick.
‘I am grateful to God to your organisation that supports us.’
‘After the sale of their products during harvest most [cocoa farmers] begin to face financial difficulties,’ explains Gbati Kosso Agbo, who oversees Tearfund’s work in West Africa. ‘But after the training in crop diversification, several farmers – who were unable to make ends meet and to get their children to school and care for them – were now able to have more food for consumption as well as to sell.’
Struggling to survive
Despite international companies like Nestlé bulk-buying tonnes of cocoa from Ivory Coast, farmers like Patrick are often not paid enough to live on. They are forced to find other sources of income.
The average male cocoa farmer from the Ivory Coast lives below the poverty line and earns around 74 pence a day, less than the average price of a bar of chocolate in the UK. Female farmers earn less than half of that – around 23 pence a day.
Meanwhile, chocolate manufacturers and retailers are making huge amounts of profits from chocolate. And we often enjoy the end result, without paying much thought to where it came from.
Fairtrade under threat
Over the past few years, the Fairtrade Foundation has helped improve the living and working conditions of farmers by ensuring that they are paid a fair price for their products and labour. Tearfund actively encourages cocoa farmers to sell their beans to Fairtrade cooperatives where possible. This has become a lifeline for the world’s poorest cocoa farmers, preventing them being exploited by big corporations and helping them to escape poverty.
But now, this progress is at risk of being reversed.
Nestlé recently announced that they are pulling out of their long-standing Fairtrade deal with some of the world’s most vulnerable farmers.
Losing a lifeline
For ten years, Nestlé has been one of the leading buyers of Fairtrade certified cocoa through its KitKat brand. Every year, this supports about 27,000 small-scale cocoa farmers and provides workers with around £2 million of ‘Fairtrade Premium’.
The Fairtrade Premium enables communities to lift themselves out of poverty. Over and above the Fairtrade price, the Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use to improve their quality of life. They decide together how to spend this money – for example, investing in their farming, businesses, or health and education in the community.
‘As Fairtrade producers, our voice is heard and taken into account. We are treated with the respect and dignity we deserve. Stopping the relationship with Fairtrade is to silence our voices,’ says Atse Ossey Francis, President Ivorian Fair Trade Administrative Committee. ‘This is a devastating blow for some of the world's poorest producers.’
Cocoa farmers struggle with low and uncertain incomes at the best of times. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, companies like Nestlé should be doing all they can to support the farmers they work with. Instead they are abandoning them. It’s likely that farmers like Patrick will be forced into selling their crops for an even lower price, pushing them further into poverty.
What can we do?
Despite Nestlé’s damaging decision, we can all do something to support cocoa farmers.
- Buy Fairtrade. If we enjoy chocolate, we can keep buying it – but at a fair price for all those involved in producing it. By committing to only purchasing Fairtrade certified products, we can give power back to farmers like Patrick.
- Sign the petition. We can also raise our voices on behalf of Patrick and other farmers. Please join us in signing the petition to urge Nestlé to reconsider their decision and keep KitKats Fairtrade.
- Thank God that Patrick and other cocoa farmers have been able to adapt their farming methods and increase their income. Pray that more cocoa farmers will benefit from training from Tearfund’s partners so that they can lift themselves out of poverty.
- Pray that chocolate manufacturers – such as Nestlé – will commit (and recommit) to paying cocoa farmers a fair price for their cocoa and labour through Fairtrade schemes.
- Cocoa farming has a history of using forced and child labour. Pray that Tearfund’s local partners will be able to prevent and stop this happening, and pray for an end to forced and child labour in all industries.