Chocolate and Cocoa Companies Sign On To CocoaAction Program

Chocolate is incredibly popular. In the U.S. alone, chocolate sales reached $10.3 billion in 2013. Chocolate comes from cocoa which is grown on trees in countries on the equator. Most of the world’s cocoa supply comes from just two West African countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Both countries are the world’s top cocoa-producing countries, supplying over 55 percent of the world’s cocoa. Twelve of the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies, including Hershey, Nestle, and Blommer, have now signed a joint agreement with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Called CocoaAction, the program is coordinated by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). Through the program, cocoa farmers will be provided with tools to increase productivity and community development interventions.
CocoaAction is expected to reach 200,000 Ivorian farmers and 100,000 farmers in Ghana and their communities by 2020. The companies that are a part of Cocoa Action will work closely with the Ivorian and Ghanian governments to train cocoa farmers in techniques to make cocoa farming more sustainable. The program will later be extended to other countries. Blommer, one of the signatories to the program, is one of the largest cocoa processors and ingredient chocolate suppliers in North America. The company already has a Sustainable Origins Initiative, which operates farmer training programs in West Africa, Indonesia and the Americas. Sustainable Origins has reached over 60,000 cocoa farmers globally.
CocoaAction envisions that by 2020 cocoa is the top crop of choice for farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Sustainably grown cocoa will allow their communities to economically grow. The program’s key objective is that cocoa farmers will increase their productivity by at least 100 percent. Specifically, CocoaAction has three goals that it hopes will be practiced by 300,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire:
  • Apply good agricultural practices 
  • Have access to improved planting material 
  • Have access to fertilizer and use it correctly 
CocoaAction also envisions that the worst forms of child labor in cocoa farming will be eliminated and basic education will be available for the children of cocoa farmers. Cocoa farmers do not earn much so it’s hard for them to hire the labor needed. As a result, child labor is all too common. The majority of farmers are small land holders, generally less than five hectares. According to a Tulane University report, 25 to 50 percent of the children in households in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana work on cocoa farms. Children working on cocoa farms are “frequently involved in hazardous work,” the report states. Only a fraction of the children working on cocoa farms are paid: five percent in Cote d’Ivoire and 10 percent in Ghana. 
In 2009, the U.S. Department of State estimated that there were over 109,000 children working in the “worst forms of child labor” in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry. About 10 percent of those children were victims of human trafficking or forced labor. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that about 43.5 percent of Ghanaian children aged five to 14 years old were working. Children who are working in cocoa fields do not attend school. Only 59 percent of boys and 51 percent of girls attend school in Côte d’Ivoire. Only 75 percent of children attend school in Ghana.
Photo: John Loo