Cocoa farmer voice grows, but next step is a seat at decision-making table

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cocoa farmers starting to be heard, but Declaration urges consultation on the big decisions: WCFO  ©GettyImages-Gary Waters
Cocoa farmers starting to be heard, but Declaration urges consultation on the big decisions: WCFO ©GettyImages-Gary Waters

Related tags: Cocoa farmers, inclusivity

Cocoa farmers’ voice in the chocolate industry is rising, says the World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO), but a Declaration from farmers urges greater involvement in decision making on industry and government policy.

WCFO held its first Global Cocoa Farmers Conference from September 26 to 27, in Accra, Ghana.

The first annual event featured 400 participants, including farmers, chocolate industry players such as Barry Callebaut, Cargill and government agencies.

The conference ended with a Declaration to guide farmers on how to play their role in the cocoa value chain.

‘The thing that is missing’

Sako Warren, secretary general at WCFO and CEO at Farmgate Cocoa Alliance, told ConfectioneryNews: “What we are calling on is the thing that is missing in the value chain - the side of the farmers."

Warren told this site in 2015​, the farmer's voice was largely absent from international cocoa and chocolate conferences on sustainability. 

wcfo conf
The Global Cocoa Farmers Conference was sponsored by Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and PelGar International and took place in Accra, Ghana last month. Photos: WCFO

World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO)

wcfo 1
Photo: WCFO

WCFO is headquartered in Utrecht, Netherlands, and has a regional office in Accra, Ghana. Its 750,000 members are smallholders, organised groups of cocoa farmers and farm workers in cocoa producing countries, such as Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire Ecuador, Indonesia, Jamaica and Colombia. 

But the WCFO secretary general said: "The farmers are now playing the role they deserve, but it can get better."

WCFO for example has been invited to speak at the World Cocoa Foundation’s upcoming partnership meeting in Brazil this month, while reform​ ​discussions in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are in consultation with WCFO members. 

Policies that affect farmer livelihoods

The Declaration from WCFO’s Accra conference urges cocoa farmers be included in developing government and industry policy on cocoa sustainability.

“..WCFO have a space in policy formation as these policies directly affect our livelihoods.”​ it says.

The full declaration is available as a PDF below.

Warren said farmers must be consulted on the big issues in cocoa, such as government policy, trade, climate impact, child labor, traceability and gender inequality.

ICCO's new executive director

Photo: ICCO

ICCO is in a period of transition after long standing executive director Dr Jean-Marc Anga stood down to make way for Belgian national Michel Arrion (pictured), an EU civil servant who has served as ambassador of the European Union in various African countries including Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire. Arrion will serve a five-year term. Dr. Anga held the role since 2010.

"There is nothing we think can go on in this value chain without our presence,"​ he said. "Farmers probably contribute about 90% to solving these problems."

Akin to ICCO declarations

WCFO said its Declaration was in accordance with the International Cocoa Organization’s (ICCO) declarations from its conferences.

The last ICCO Declaration – ‘the Berlin Declaration’​ – said the cocoa sector will not be sustainable if farmers are not able to earn a living income, among other statements and recommendations.

‘Bottom-up approach’

WCFO argues fair pricing for farmers, and farmer inclusion in decision making is the solution to cocoa sustainability.

The Farmgate Cocoa Alliance – an organization bringing together farmers, governments, companies, NGOs -  has developed a 2030 roadmap designed to aiming to professionalize smallholder cocoa farming.

The roadmap – available HERE​ - aims to create: “A fully inclusive, traceable, transparent and sustainable cocoa sector that operates based on a, bottom-up approach initiated to boost cocoa farming entrepreneurship, resulting in fair and balance value distribution among pertinent stakeholders.”

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