Tony’s ChocolonelyThe two biggest cocoa producers in 2022 were Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana with 2.2 million tonnes and 800,000 tonnes respectively. To yield this impressive quantity of cocoa, the Ivory Coast and Ghana employ a significant portion of their population in agricultural work. In the Ivory Coast, more than 48% of its population in 2017 were employed in the agriculture sector. Meanwhile, in Ghana, an estimated 7.3 million people either owned a farm or operated a farm in 2020. The sheer importance of agriculture makes cocoa a crucial export commodity for the economies of the Ivory Coast and Ghana. These countries are also frequent production locations for many chocolate and coca-based multinational companies. 

One such company is Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch confectionery corporation. However, Tony’s Chocolonely differs in one important aspect. The company firmly believes that the profit-centric approach of the cocoa industry is the root cause of poverty and child labor in countries similar to the Ivory Coast. In a 2020 survey conducted by the company in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, 27.2% of farmers in Ghana and 44.9% of farmers in the Ivory Coast were considered to be poor by MPI (multidimensional poverty index) standards. Furthermore, in 2021, many West African farmers were further driven into poverty as cocoa prices fell a drastic 18.5%. To combat increasing poverty rates, the company has taken the initiative to support local farmers and has presented several outlets to escape the shackles of poverty. 

Tony’s Chocolonely’s Efforts

One of the company’s most effective strategies to reduce poverty has been through increased market prices. Specifically, Tony’s Chocolonely adheres to the Fairtrade Premium, an extra sum of money farmers can receive to improve their quality of life, and even maintains their own “Tony’s Premium.” By paying a premium price for cocoa, Tony’s Chocolonely has effectively protected local farmers. For example, in 2022, the cost of living in the Ivory Coast jumped 14% and threatened the livelihood of thousands of farmers. 

Fortunately, because Tony’s Chocolonely supports the Living Income Reference Price (LIRP) of the Fairtrade Premium, the price per ton of cocoa increased from $2200 to $2390. Additionally, the Tony’s Premium in the Ivory Coast rose significantly from $792 to $1096. The inflated market prices have enabled poor farmers to afford primary health care, educate their children and provide nutritional meals for their families. 

The second strategy Tony’s Chocolonely implements to decrease poverty is lowering child and forced labor rates. Unfortunately, in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, more than 2 million children are unethically employed to produce cocoa beans. An additional 30,000 people, confirmed by the 2018 Global Slavery Index study, were forced into the cocoa industry. Despite industry practices, Tony’s Chocolonely has made it its mission to create 100% exploitation-free chocolate. In Western African communities that Tony’s Chocolonely works with, child labor has declined to approximately 4.4%. This percentage of child labor is much lower compared to the industry standard of 46.5%. As fewer children are illegally employed, more children will have time for education, which can present them with greater opportunities to escape poverty. At the same time, ending child labor and forced labor can also improve the quality of work in the cocoa industry, thereby maximizing productivity. 

These strategies have outlined the emergence of Tony’s Chocolonely as a pioneer in reducing poverty within the cocoa industry. 

What’s Next?

As Tony’s Chocolonely grows as a major confectionery company, its vision to end poverty continues to benefit many West African communities. Tony’s Chocolonely serves as a paramount example for other companies, displaying how it’s possible to generate substantial profits while still protecting its workers from poverty. While there is still a lot of progress left to desire in the cocoa industry, Tony’s Chocolonely has proven that corporations can fight poverty.

– Manav Yarlagadda
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Cocoa Farming
The Hershey Company is committed to achieving its goal of 100 percent sustainable cocoa farming by 2020, investing in two programs targeting small farmers and poverty in West Africa.

Learn To Grow Cocoa

The focus of this program — launched in 2012 — is to help farmers in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire increase their productivity and improve their livelihoods. Currently, poverty rates in Nigeria are rising while Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are not on target to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

In West Africa, where about 70 percent of cocoa is grown, most cocoa farms are only about two to four hectares in size. The Learn To Grow program empowers farmers by teaching them environmental, social and sustainable agricultural practices. Through Learn To Grow, Hershey offers a three-year training program that “can lead to UTZ certification as producers of sustainable cocoa.”

Farmers who meet the certification requirements will receive premium payments for their cocoa yields, providing a considerable boost in income. The program also provides greater opportunities for their communities to thrive as it, “encourages women and young cocoa farmers to take leadership roles in farmer organizations by leveraging training and knowledge sharing.”

One of the key features of the Learn To Grow Program is called CocoaLink. This is a mobile phone service that connects even the most rural farmers in West Africa. It shares practical information with these farmers, including things such as farm safety, information on good fertilization practices, pest and disease prevention, post-harvest marketing and more.

Learn To Grow also has plans to distribute 1 million higher yielding, drought and disease resistant cocoa trees to West African farmers.

Cocoa For Good

In April of 2018, The Hershey Company launched Cocoa For Good, pledging $500 million by 2030 to support farming communities. This initiative aims to help all cocoa-growing communities, with a focus on West Africa. The initiative targets four key areas:

  • Nourishing Families. People are most productive when they are healthy, and the Hershey Company provides increased access to good nutrition, enabling children to be more successful in school and adults to be more successful in their jobs. Of note, every day, 50,000 children in Ghana receive ViVi, a nut-based healthy snack, provided through the Hershey Energize Learning program.
  • Elevating Youth. Child labor is a side effect of poverty in West Africa, and children aged 14-17 are at the most risk. Hershey currently targets child labor by increasing access to educational opportunities for the most vulnerable children. So far, the company has built five schools and supported 31 education institutions.
  • Prospering Communities. The Hershey Company is investing in programs that support women farmers who make up 45 percent of the cocoa farming industry in West Africa.
  • Preserving Ecosystems. The Hershey Company encourages the use of sustainable agricultural techniques such as shade-grown cocoa farming in order to preserve the environment for future generations.

The Hershey Company recognizes its important role in the cocoa value chain and has repeatedly shown its commitment to improving sustainable cocoa farming practices, especially in West Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr