THE BLOG

Setting A New Ambition For Sustainable Cocoa Farming - From Buyer To Accountable Partner

24/11/2016 14:08

Without cocoa there is no chocolate. Without the next generation of cocoa farmers there is no cocoa. Sustainable cocoa farming is essential to the success of businesses like ours, not a nice to have.

Today there is a need to be more ambitious in terms of impact and scale. Critically, that means moving away from being a buyer of cocoa beans to an integral partner for our farmers. This requires an ambitious approach and a real step-change in our business relationship with farmers.

Critical to this is our relationship with the next generation of farmers and inspiring them to see cocoa farming as a good future. However, young people in cocoa growing communities are increasingly walking away from farming. The average age of a cocoa farmer is rising, young people don't see their futures in farming communities and are increasingly migrating away to city life.

Too many cocoa farmers are trapped in a cycle where they just make enough money from selling their crops to meet their basic needs. This leads to under-investment, outdated farming practices and a lack of new planting to replace old, unproductive trees. Despite work by many organisations, there is simply much more to do and we have to be ambitious about how we do it.

2016-11-22-1479837208-3896203-CocoaLifeWomanPlantsSeedling.jpgFairtrade Foundation

The most effective approaches in this area tend to have three key qualities.

First, ensuring farmers receive a competitive price for their cocoa, on clear terms of trade.

Secondly, blending improved farming with thriving farming communities. This means starting with simple tangible support, like providing better agricultural tools and more resilient cocoa trees, and also creating stronger communities by investing in areas like women's empowerment, health and education.

Finally, the most effective approaches are ones that give the farming communities control over their own destinies, rather than imposing solutions on them. This means enabling them to create and deliver their own tailored action plans that address their specific needs - whether that's improving access to financial services or promoting entrepreneurship.

We know this works. For example, independent verification shows that farmers' in our Cocoa Life programme in Ghana have seen their incomes increase 49% more than farms outside the programme.

2016-11-22-1479837334-2005925-CocoaLifesortingcocoa.JPGFairtrade Foundation

The Fairtrade Foundation in particular has been absolutely crucial in providing support for farmers. Working with organisations such as ourselves, they have helped create strong farmer organisations and supported them to function efficiently, with effective governance and good business practices. They have also helped give farmers crucial skills, like how to protect workers' rights, farm sustainably and diversify the sources of income beyond cocoa farming. This huge impact on farmers' lives is why we have worked with Fairtrade since 2009, and are continuing to do so.

What's needed now is even greater impact on the ground and at greater scale.

The challenges we are trying to solve today are compounded by new issues, such as climate change. Building resilience to climate change is increasingly becoming a key threat to the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. That's why I am so passionate about our move to expand our own Cocoa Life programme through a new global partnership with Fairtrade.

Fairtrade will become a partner for the whole of the Cocoa Life programme, working together to secure the long-term future of cocoa farming communities. By 2019, all Cadbury chocolate in the UK and Ireland will display the Cocoa Life branding, symbolising the adoption of the programme across the Cadbury range. As a result, the selected Cadbury Dairy Milk products that were previously Fairtrade certified will no longer carry the FAIRTRADE Mark. This means that five times as much Cadbury chocolate in the UK will now be made with sustainably sourced cocoa.

2016-11-22-1479837376-5273639-COCOALIFE_BOP.pngFairtrade Foundation

I'm proud that we will continue to be held to account. On top of our independent program verification, Fairtrade will report on what we achieve for farmers and their communities. I want people to know that whenever they see a Cocoa Life label it represents thriving cocoa farming communities and makes a real difference to people's lives.

Visit the Cocoa Life website [Cocoalife.org] for updates on how the Cocoa Life expansion is progressing.

You can also hear more from Fairtrade's CEO, Michael Gidney, here

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