Sustainable cocoa: Action needed in two years, not ten

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Action must happen in two years, not ten, says report editor
Action must happen in two years, not ten, says report editor

Related tags Chocolate

Action on sustainable cocoa must happen in two years, not ten and requires a holistic approach far beyond simple certification and increased production, the editor of a new report says.

The 2012 Cocoa Barometer, jointly compiled by a coalition of NGOs, suggests that current efforts to solve challenges in the cocoa sector need to be reinvigorated with a broader, holistic approach.

It uses West Africa as a case study to delve into activity and challenges in sustainable developments across the industry.

Antonie Fountain, editor of the report and director of Stop The Traffik, one NGO involved in the Cocoa Barometer, told that further action in the sector requires a sense of urgency.

“Action needs to happen in the next two years, not ten,”​ Fountain said.

“This needs to happen in the near future because the cocoa industry is in desperate need of change. The situation of ageing farmers and youth pursuing other lines of work is specifically frightening,”​ he added.

Change within this time-scale is definitely achievable and really quite simple, he said.

‘Inclusive, collective response’

“We need to see real, holistic solutions that include infrastructure, market access, poverty and working conditions. Just increasing productivity will not solve these problems,”​ he said.

Current focus from chocolate firms and industry, he said, remains on tackling supply issues and does not address key social issues.

“There is a danger that players are losing sight of the need of a holistic approach. Certification and increasing productivity are necessary, but must be complemented by other steps, such as increasing the price farmers receive for their cocoa, improving local infrastructure, and a renewed focus on the social and labour conditions in the producing countries,”​ he added

Fountain said that two actions are needed simultaneously – individual companies must act but this needs to be backed up by collective action.

“We are starting to see individual industry action although it needs more coordination. What we’re not yet seeing is collective response,”​ the director said.

Fountain acknowledged that while there are collective initiatives in place, many remain in their infancy and merely on paper. “We need to see action on the ground…There is still a lot more that can be done.”

“Inclusive, collective response is needed, and farmers and traders have to be at the table to be a part of this,”​ he said.

“There really is a role for everyone to play in this,”​ he added. 

Current sustainable cocoa use and pledges
Current sustainable cocoa use and pledges

Moving forward with action plans

The Cocoa Barometer report makes five recommendations on how industry can push forward and create positive change in a sector plagued with challenges.

  1. ‘Increase, diversify and stabilize income of farmers’​: A sector-wide dialogue is necessary to ensure this happens and long-term relationships between traders and farmers must be struck. Private or state-run marketing boards such as Cocobod and CCC, should be set up in all major cocoa-growing nations and increase prices of cocoa should be paid at farm level.
  2. ‘Improve infrastructure and support structure’​: It is in businesses’ interest to invest in improved infrastructure such as roads, water supply, healthcare, education, farmer training and warehousing.
  3. ‘Increase pre-competitive collaboration’​: Standard Bodies must actively collaborate beyond streamlining of curriculum and farmer training to include auditing. Global common definitions of sustainability and supporting sustainable cocoa production should be sought.
  4. ‘Create a level playing field’​: There should be common sustainability standards and compliancy should be linked to a license to operate in this sector. There should be increased transparency and regular evaluations from Standards Bodies.
  5. ‘Prioritize social issues and working conditions’​: Farmer training programs must include social issues and address working conditions. Third party independent reports on such issues should be made to gain recommendations and plans of actions for the future.

Cooking up a tasty balance…

Fountain compared actions to the process of making chocolate. “If you use only cocoa or only sugar, it's just not going to work. You need to put all the ingredients in there, in the right combination, at the right time.”

The 2012 Cocoa Barometer is the collaborative work of The VOICE Network (Oxfam Wereldwinkels, FNV Bondgenoten, Berne Declaration, Südwind-Institut, Stop The Traffik, Oxfam Novib), Solidaridad and Hivos. The full report can be found HERE.

Related topics Commodities Cocoa Sustainability

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