Cocoa Farmers in Africa
As the fourth largest export in the world, cocoa production has been a part of the global market ever since its introduction to Nigeria in 1984. Many big brand chocolate and ice cream companies such as Mars, Hershey and Snickers are dependent on this market, though much of the revenue does not go towards cocoa farmers or workers. In 2014, chocolate sales reached up to $100 billion, yet cocoa farmers were living off a wage of $1.25 per day. Here is some information about cocoa farmers in Africa and how Ben & Jerry’s supports them.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farming

With rising demands for cocoa production and insufficient compensation, cocoa farmers in Africa are less reluctant to discontinue the use of child labor. A study from the University of Chicago reported that about 1.6 million children work in cocoa farms, mostly found in Ghana and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)—the two largest cocoa production sites. Ghana and Ivory Coast occupy two-thirds of the world’s cocoa bean production, both of which exploit poor children as young as 5-years-old that need to support their families.

Despite the slowed rates of child labor in Africa’s cocoa production, farmers and working children struggle to maintain any comfortable income to support themselves. Cocoa trees take years to cultivate and harvest, which is too time-consuming for a volatile and unreliable market price. Nongovernmental organizations that strive to end child labor in Africa speculate that the cocoa farmer’s insufficient income stems from supply chains. Although programs are in place to reduce child labor and raise farmers in the supply chain to be self-sufficient, cocoa production does not yield enough to combat poverty among the farmers and workers in the industry.

Ben & Jerry’s and Fairtrade

On Nov. 17, 2020, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand released a statement that announced its commitment to paying a livable wage to the cocoa farmers in Africa. In partnership with Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry’s plans to allocate funds towards Fairtrade’s Premiums, which are supplemental bonuses that farmers receive for quality work. With extra funding, cocoa farmers have been able to build health facilities and install essential services such as a water pump or solar panels.

Fairtrade also released its new mission statement to provide a livable income for its workers in the cocoa sector. By focusing on multidimensional poverty alleviation for cocoa workers, Fairtrade plans to allocate funds to implement assistant programs, make partnerships to push for sustainability, and push for policies to protect small stakeholders in poverty. By collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s, both brands guarantee financial support towards the 168,000 cocoa farmers abiding by environmentally-friendly structures and producing quality ingredients.

Looking Forward

Ben & Jerry’s continues to promote Fairtrade and the push for liveable wages in Ivory Coast and Ghana’s cocoa bean plantations. In its recent statement, it announced, “As part of our new price commitment for the cocoa we will work with Fairtrade to evaluate and be sure we are making a positive difference for farmers.” By marking its Fairtrade partnership on cocoa-based ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie will now be a reminder that consumers are supporting businesses in Africa.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Chocolate Production and Child Labor
When a person craves a quick snack or pick-me-up and runs to the store to grab their favorite chocolate bar, they may not wonder where the chocolate came from in the first place. However, much of cocoa production takes place in West African in places like the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The result of this cocoa harvest is sweet, but the process is quite bitter. Currently, 2 million children in these countries labor to produce chocolate. Over the last few years, measures have removed children from this labor. However, the problematic relationship between chocolate production and child labor has increased from 30% to 41%.

The Conditions of the Children

Children often work on small cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, and mostly as victims of human trafficking. They work day in and day out using machetes and harmful pesticides to harvest cocoa pods. The children are very young and overworked with hunger. Most of them have not even gone to school for many years.

Raising Awareness

The world’s chocolate companies are aware of the atrocities of chocolate production and child labor that are part of their products’ creation. Many have pledged to eradicate child labor in the industry, but have consistently fallen short. In an article in the Washington Post, Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Siegel addressed this issue. They outlined the continuous failure of many large companies to remove child labor from their chocolate supply chain. As a result of these companies’ negligence, the odds are substantial that a chocolate bar in the United States is the product of child labor. Some of the biggest chocolate brands, such as Nestle or Hershey, cannot even claim that child labor is not involved in their chocolate production.

Addressing the Issue

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) is combatting child labor in the chocolate production process. It has been creating plans and programs to break the cycle. Its research and data show that the Ivory Coast and Ghana produce 60% of the world’s chocolate, with a steadily increasing demand for chocolate worldwide. This will likely exacerbate child labor issues instead of stopping them. As the leading funders of child labor combatting programs, ILAB has raised $29 million to fight child labor in chocolate production in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

ILAB formed the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG). It brought together the governments of the Ivory Coast and Ghana and representatives from the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry together. They had essential conversations that are integral in eradicating child labor in the chocolate industry.

The CLCCG works toward eradicating child labor. It has also been integral in raising awareness about this issue and creating resources to combat it. However, it cannot do it all by itself. Governments, stakeholders and large chocolate companies must commit themselves to removing children from harmful environments for the sake of cocoa production.

Looking Ahead

Chocolate production and child labor have gone hand in hand for decades. However, through the efforts of government organizations, the cocoa production process could become as sweet as its end product.

Kalicia Bateman
Photo: Unsplash