22/11/2016 06:45 GMT | Updated 23/11/2017 05:12 GMT

$400Million Cocoa Investment Aims To Tackle Poverty And Empower Farmers

Today the cocoa industry is worth billions, yet the bitter truth behind the sweet treat is that too many cocoa farmers are struggling to survive, trapped in a cycle of poverty and hunger, living in communities without basic housing, electricity, healthcare or education. Don't just take it from me, listen to Fairtrade farmer Fortin Bley from Cote D'Ivoire, who says: "A person who brings so much pleasure and joy to others, lives in poverty himself." Though his country is the lead global exporter of cocoa, farmers still earn as little as 40p per day.

Fortin Bley says this should "prey on our human conscience" and he is right. To me it represents a clarion call to step up our campaign for fair, sustainable trade as the norm for how business should be done. I'm proud of Fairtrade's role in improving life for the communities we work with, but the scale of the problem requires significant investment to speed up the pace of change. That's why today, I'm so excited to confirm that Fairtrade will now partner with Cocoa Life in an expansion of its $400 million sustainability programme across Cadbury brands, which means that by 2019 five times as much Cadbury chocolate in the UK and Ireland will be made with sustainably sourced cocoa, which in turn will aim to transform the future of more than 200,000 farmers and 1 million people in cocoa communities in West Africa, Asia and Latin America.

When the expansion is rolled out next year, the FAIRTRADE Mark will be removed from Cadbury Dairy Milk to signify that the cocoa will no longer be certified but for the first time Fairtrade will become a partner across the whole programme. The partnership will be communicated on all Cadbury chocolate packs in the UK and Ireland so that consumers know it is sustainable.

Let's pause for a moment to absorb the news; instead of certifying a few selected Cadbury Dairy Milk products, we now have the opportunity to help shape an impact-focused programme across the whole Cadbury range. One which embeds Fairtrade's values and principles of farmer empowerment, sustainable livelihoods and fairer terms of trade within Cocoa Life - which is itself rooted in community development - and now also Cadbury's core business approach to trading. Cadbury is stepping up to the mark, but we'll be there to lend our expertise, hold them to account and make sure farmers don't just survive but increasingly are able to thrive.

Fairtrade has always set out to change trade and seeing the world's biggest chocolate brand rise to the challenge shows just how much our movement has achieved since we began in the 1990s. And let's not forget what a breakthrough it was when Cadbury Dairy Milk products first became Fairtrade certified in 2009, after campaigners and shoppers stood up and fought for farmers' rights.

Since then, we've already delivered significant impact for communities in Ghana but also in that time, across West Africa, poverty has been exacerbated by climate change. Farmers say it is the biggest threat they face, as they are already losing as much as 75% of their cocoa seedlings, affecting production and profit. And predictions show it is likely to get worse so our first priority in a series of joint impact-based programmes is to help farmers to become more resilient to climate change, through sustainable farming methods.

This programmatic approach will enable us to deliver further impact across six countries, and that is cause for celebration. The cocoa and sugar farmers who currently produce Cadbury Dairy Milk won't lose out, and thousands more will benefit. Fairtrade's continued independent involvement in Cocoa Life will ensure it delivers at least the equivalent value, as well as much greater volumes of cocoa sales.

The scale of that ambition is phenomenal and presents an opportunity to put farmers' interests at the forefront of the sustainability agenda. Fairtrade has always represented farmers' interests, our system is 50% owned by producers and we make sure they are involved at all levels of decision making.

As Fairtrade continues to evolve in the way that it works, we continue to see certification against our rigorous standards as our bread and butter, our main way of doing business. Not many companies have a programme on the ground of the size and scale of Cocoa Life, with so many other expert and well respected NGOs such as Care, World Vision and Anti Slavery involved as well as Fairtrade. We certainly will continue certifying products and offering certified ingredient sourcing too. However in this rapidly changing economic, social and environmental landscape, it is critical we are increasingly flexible and innovative in our engagement with businesses and communities, as I outlined in Fairtrade's 2016-20 Strategy earlier this year.

Our mission of empowering farmers drives us to constantly innovate as we go forward and whether we're certifying products or delivering new programmes, we'll always be driven by what's best for farmers, and ensuring their voices are heard at the highest levels of industry. As my good friend Fortin Bley says, "We want to be in control of our own futures. Fortunately, through Fairtrade, we have a voice."


Top image of Fortin Bley Fairtrade farmer from Cote D'Ivoire

Middle image of farmers benefitting from Fairtrade and Cocoa Life in Ghana by Kate Fishpool for Fairtrade