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Removing the taste of injustice from our Christmas chocolate

Christmas and chocolate go hand in hand. But how can we pray and act to ensure cocoa farmers get a fair deal?

Written by Gideon Heugh | 10 Dec 2021

Credit: Tom Price/Tearfund

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ. And we’re sure many of you will agree that eating chocolate is a great way to celebrate. Tens of millions of pounds are spent on chocolate every Christmas in the UK. But how much of this money ends up going to the farmers who are responsible for this festive treat? 

Great profits, greater poverty

Price wars between large chocolate companies have been driving the cost of cocoa down. This year, the income of cocoa farmers in Africa is set to go down 20 per cent. This will push even more people into poverty. 

While the profits of chocolate companies are skyrocketing, the quality of life for farmers is plummeting.

The majority of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast. There, the average annual income of a cocoa farmer is around $3,000. Yet to cover the cost of living, they’d need to earn more than twice this.

Dried cocoa beans ready for roasting in Ivory Coast | Credit: Tom Price/Tearfund

A fair deal

One of the best ways we can tackle this injustice and ensure farmers are getting a fair deal is to buy Fairtrade.

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.

By committing to only purchasing Fairtrade certified products, we can give the power back to farmers like Herve…

Under threat

Herve, 43, is a cocoa farmer who lives in Ivory Coast with his wife and five children. Cocoa production is part of the culture there – but it’s a way of life that’s under threat.

The problems caused by the low cost of cocoa is being compounded by climate change. Increasing temperatures make growing the cacao bean increasingly difficult for small-scale farmers like Herve. Desperate to make any kind of profit, many farmers are burning down rainforest to clear more land.

Herve was losing hope. Every year, his crops would fail, and he couldn’t provide for his family. 

Yet farmers like Herve have extraordinary resilience and tenacity. All that Herve needed was an opportunity, and he got that thanks to Tearfund’s local partner: the Alliance for Integral Development and Social Action (ADIAS).

One happy farmer

ADIAS has been providing farmers with the technical skills and improved cocoa seeds to help farmers increase their yield. And they encourage farmers to join the cooperatives that are supported by Fairtrade.

Banana trees and cocoa trees planted side by side in Ivory Coast | Tom Price/Tearfund

With the falling price of cocoa, ADIAS has also been working alongside people like Herve to help them diversify their crops. 

‘After the training, I decided to sow banana and okra,’ Herve tells us. ‘The sales provide more than 1 million West African Francs [around $2,000] after each yield, which happens at least three times a year.’ This extra income takes the pressure off his cocoa farming. 

‘I know how to take care of the soil in my farm,’ Herve says. ‘I have good production of diverse crops that are sold and consumed in my family. I feel better and happier.’

Pray with us

Even chocolate can give us an opportunity to pray!

Put aside some time to eat some chocolate. You can do this on your own or with friends, family or your small group. If you are able to, buy some Fairtrade chocolate – just look for the Fairtrade mark on the packaging.

Unwrap the chocolate, then (and this is the hard bit) pause for a moment. Think of the journey that the cocoa beans in your chocolate have been on. Think of the farmers, like Herve, who cultivated them. 

Then (and this is the easy bit) eat the chocolate. As you enjoy the taste, lift up a prayer for the cocoa farmers, thinking of the good things that you desire for them.

As a bonus prayer opportunity, next time you walk past a chocolate aisle in a shop, pray for the companies selling the chocolate. Pray that more of them will give a fair deal for their farmers.

Written by

Written by  Gideon Heugh

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