Around six million people depend on farming cocoa for their livelihoods around the world, with 60% of the world’s cocoa sourced from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana alone.
What cocoa farming means
Despite the world’s love for chocolate, it is a precarious way of making a living. Although there is a high demand for cocoa, the global price for cocoa has fluctuated wildly in recent decades as a result of weather events and politic upheaval in Côte d’Ivoire, exacerbated by speculators betting on cocoa futures markets. Prices hit a 32-year high in March 2011 before crashing 42% by the end of the year but recovered in 2014 amid industry fears of a shortage of cocoa beans. Such volatility in prices makes it impossible for cocoa farmers to know how much they would be paid for their cocoa beans in a given year, let alone being able to plan for the future.
Most producers have small farms, often with less than five hectares of land. They also face significant problems with the crops, including Black Pod disease which globally is killing one in 10 cocoa trees and causing a drop in yield of 20-30%. The general age of many cocoa trees is also an issue and means small-scale farmers are producing less cocoa year-on-year. The average age of a cocoa farmer is now over 50 because the younger generation cannot be attracted to cocoa farming because of the poor returns. Read more about the challenges for small farmers growing cocoa here.
How is Fairtrade making things better?
Fairtrade aims to make cocoa farming more sustainable so farmers can better provide for themselves and their families. At the end of 2012, 122 small farmer organisations in 19 countries held a certificate to produce and sell Fairtrade cocoa, representing 167,000 small-scale farmers.
Fairtrade has a minimum price for cocoa of $2,000 per ton, with a $200 premium per ton on top of that for farmers to invest in their businesses or local community.
The Fairtrade Premium is invested in programmes to improve the efficiency of farms to boost the yields and the quality of their cocoa. In 2011-12, 45% of premium income was used by organisations to strengthen their cocoa business and farming methods. The premium is also invested in community programmes such as schools (Côte d’Ivoire has only around a 50% literacy rate), medical centres and clean running water. Read more about the investments made by cocoa farmers with the Fairtrade Premium in this recent report.
Farmers in the 50,000-strong Fairtrade certified Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana have spent their premium on building wells for drinking water, building public toilets, and a mobile clinic to visit member’s villages. They have also invested in training in leadership and management and set up other ways for women especially to earn more money, making soap and palm oil, milling corn and breeding snails.
In addition to the minimum price and premium, Fairtrade provides essential training and support to farmer organisations to help them become successful business organisations. In Côte d’Ivoire, Fairtrade undertook training workshops so farmers know how to negotiate their contracts with traders and get a better deal for their members.
Comfort Kwaasibea, a cocoa farmer from the co-operative, says: ‘Fairtrade is a good thing. Things you take for granted may be hard to come by in Ghana. Fairtrade is good to the farmer and makes us happy. We would like to sell more cocoa to Fairtrade so more farmers can taste a better life.'
Fairtrade also recognises the need to innovate and create more options to allow farmers to sell more of their cocoa on Fairtrade terms. In January 2014, Fairtrade launched new sourcing opportunities for cocoa under the Fairtrade Sourcing Program for Cocoa. Fortin Bley, a Fairtrade cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire explains what difference the programme will make.