Mr Scobey said the problems in question are increasing incomes for farmers; ending child labour; and restoring and protecting forests in cocoa-growing areas. “Much was achieved in 2019 but much more remains to be done,” Mr Scobey said.
“Farmers need to earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living and to ensure the long-term future of cocoa. The cocoa and chocolate industry is working closely with governments, farmers, and other partners to make cocoa farming more profitable and to raise farmer income. Companies have paid extra on top of official prices for cocoa grown without child labour and deforestation.
“Industry is implementing the new Living Income Differential that Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana introduced in July 2019 to raise farmer income. In addition, companies continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year to make cocoa farming more profitable and sustainable. Our goal is to help farmers grow more cocoa on less land with higher income. These programs support farm renovation and diversification, strengthen farmer organizations, and increase access to financial services.”
Mr Scobey said that increasing farmer income is central to ending child labour. “The primary cause is poverty. Two thirds of the world’s cocoa is grown by 1.6 million farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Most of these farmers are too poor to hire workers, so their children do this work,” he explained.
“The biggest worry is with what the International Labor Organization (ILO) calls the worst forms of child labour. In cocoa, this means children doing hazardous work with sharp tools or pesticides, lifting heavy loads, working long hours, or clearing land with fires.
“According to estimates, this affects two million children in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and the problem is not being solved quickly enough. Industry and the governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and the US pledged in 2010 to work together to cut the worst forms of child labour by 70 per cent by 2020. This goal is not expected to be met.
“In anticipation, the cocoa and chocolate industry is looking at new initiatives in 2020 with governments, UN agencies and development partners, and civil society to tackle the root causes of child labour,” Mr Scobey said. “This will include boosting farmer income, so they no longer need to use their children as workers. It will also include improving education for children, supporting health and nutrition, and expanding child protection services.”
As he noted, cocoa farming has driven deforestation in West Africa and a turnaround will take time to achieve. Top cocoa-producing countries Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, along with leading chocolate and cocoa companies, committed in 2017 to forest protection and restoration within the framework of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. While deforestation rates are dropping in some protected forests in response to the collaboration between industry and governments under the initiative, forest land continues to be converted for smallholder cocoa farming.
Companies published their first individual action plans to reverse deforestation under the initiative in 2019. “We will issue a progress report on these plans in March of 2020 to show that companies are taking critical steps to map and monitor the farms where cocoa is grown to ensure that forests are not destroyed as a result,” Mr Scobey said. “But it will be several years until we can show measurable progress in restoring forest cover and reducing carbon emissions through climate-smart cocoa production.
“2019 was a year of change, new thinking, and renewed energy to do more to make the cocoa sector more sustainable,” Mr Scobey concluded. “We are committed in 2020 to deepening our work with governments and farmers toward a reality where farmers earn a decent income, children are in school rather than exposed to dangerous work, and forests are conserved and restored.”