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In search of sustainable cocoa

Logo https://hintergrund.pageflow.io/kakao_en

Introduction

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A supermarket. Colourful, loud and filled to the brim. Aisle by aisle you walk along the shelves. Until you stop in front of the one: the sweets shelf. Chocolate products line up: tablets, bars, pralines.

You pick out a bar of milk chocolate. In your hands, you are most likely holding cocoa from Côte d'Ivoire, the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Almost two thirds of the raw cocoa imported to Germany comes from there. It is produced by small farmers – mostly under difficult economic and environmental conditions.

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Why is the situation in cocoa farming so difficult? Why is it that cocoa farmers are often unable to earn a living wage? Why does child labour still exist? And what solutions are generating grounds for hope?

What we can already reveal at this point: Sustainable cocoa is possible! Along the entire supply chain, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is driving change along the entire supply chain – for various clients and alongside motivated partners. But see for yourself.

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In the heart of Côte d'Ivoire

We are standing amidst huge trees in the middle of the country. Mist is hovering over the leafy canopy. The forest is interspersed with cocoa trees as far as the eye can see.

Women are seated in the shade of the trees around a pile of hand-sized cocoa pods whose colour is reminiscent of autumn foliage in the northern latitudes. But there is no autumn here, and the temperature seldom falls below 15 degrees. The women strike the pods to expose the precious cocoa beans inside. Their wooden clubs move rhythmically, making a hollow sound when they hit the shell.

2.2 million tonnes of cocoa are produced each year throughout the country. This makes Côte d'Ivoire the world’s biggest producer of cocoa.
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About 60 different ethnic groups live in Côte d'Ivoire. The average age of the 25 million Ivorians is around 18 years - Côte d'Ivoire is a young country with a rapidly growing population.

After two decades of unrest, the political and economic situation has continually stabilised since 2011.
Today, Côte d'Ivoire is once again one of West Africa’s economic powerhouses. Another contributory factor besides cocoa is the export of coffee, cashew nuts and rubber.
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But the social situation still remains tense: Almost half of the people here live in poverty, including many cocoa farmers.

A seven-person household has an average income of EUR 172 a month. However, a living income would need to be around EUR 478. It would provide a decent standard of living for all members of the household. Instead, food insecurity and child labour are part of everyday life in many places.

To earn more, farmers develop more land for cocoa growing. Since the cocoa tree needs forest soil to thrive, they clear thousands of hectares of forest every year. The outcome: environmental and climate damage.

Scroll down and click here to find out who is changing this.
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Where sustainable cocoa is produced

Worldwide, organisations and initiatives are committed to improving the situation in cocoa farming areas. The German Federal Government is also promoting this commitment. This works on several levels: Both in the main consumer countries such as Germany and in the main producer countries such as Cote d’Ivoire – and here from national cocoa policy through to smallholder families.

One example is the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa. In this alliance, the German Federal Government, chocolate manufacturers and cocoa processors as well as retailers and non-governmental organisations have joined forces.
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Together with the Ivorian Coffee-Cocoa Council (Conseil du Café-Cacao), the forum initiated the PRO-PLANTEURS project in Cote d’Ivoire.

It is working to professionalise cocoa farmers and their cooperatives and to improve living conditions in the country.

The Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector are pursuing a similar objective. Funded by Germany's Development Ministry, these centres can be found all over the world.

Their mission is to end poverty and hunger by leveraging innovative ideas and technologies in agriculture and food production – from the field to the shelf. In Côte d'Ivoire, the focus of the Green Innovation Centre’s activities is on cocoa.

What impact does it have? Let us show you.
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When the forest disappeared

Monocultures threaten cocoa farming. What solutions can there be?

Savour the region

Hervé Dobinou of Choco+ produces cocoa products for the local market.

The foundation for a good life

Meet Edwige N'Da Bomo – the nutrition trainer works on the future of the children of cocoa farmers.

Where cocoa knowledge grows

This agricultural school imparts know-how that enables cocoa farmers to earn higher incomes.

Achieving more together

When cooperatives become more professional, their members earn a higher and more reliable income.

Together towards more sustainability

The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa contributes to social and environmental change in the cocoa economy.

End child labour

Ten questions to tackle child labour: This new solution benefits families and farming cooperatives.

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Further information

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At that time, large companies and the state promoted the expansion of successful cocoa production from the east to the then still mostly forest-covered west. Until then, cocoa grew in the shade of large mixed forests with high biodiversity.

Now a new type of cultivation began its triumphant march - the sun cocoa. The whole space on the plantation was given to the cacao tree, forest trees fell. On the former forest soils, the cacao grew quickly and bore abundant fruit. In the hope of higher incomes and a better life, many farmers settled on formerly forested land.

Today, sun cocoa dominates the landscapes. Its success was short-lived: with the protective canopy missing, the rich forest soils quickly lost their nutrients. The sun heats up the landscape. In the long run, cocoa thrives better under large shade trees. Because their cocoa plantations, exhausted, yield too little, small farmers often penetrate further into the forest...
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The price of sun cocoa

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From 1990 to 2015, 90 per cent of the rain forest was cleared. Monocultures that are susceptible to desease and pest took their place. In Côte d'Ivoire alone, around 300,00 hectares of infected cocoa trees need to be felled.

But more was lost besides the rain forest. The climate has changed, air humidity has dropped, resulting in longer dry periods, high temperatures and severe rainfall events.

What was initially supposed to generate greater harvests now threatens production in its entirety: cocoa trees react very sensitively to changes in climate. So sensitively in fact that devastating harvest losses have become more frequent in recent years.

A study by the International Center für Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) even goes so far as to forecast that, due to climate change, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire could lose around 50 per cent of their cropping areas by 2050.

The cocoa farmers themselves are the ones that stand to suffer the most. They often live below the poverty threshold and are dependent on their harvest income. Above all however they need an income they can live off. The harmful practices to date are essentially an attempt to fast-track their escape from poverty.
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New methods for climate protection

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To stop deforestation, farmers have to be convinced of the merits of other cropping methods. One potential way out is a return to traditional cropping techniques, including mixed crops or so-called agroforestry, in which cocoa trees stand in the same area alongside a variety of other trees, for example fruit trees and precious woods. The trees form different layers, whereby the taller ones provide the shorter ones with shade and thus protect them against the sun’s rays.

These cropping methods are more robust, generate additional income and reduce dependency on the cocoa crop. Moreover, the trees store more CO2 and thus combat climate change.

Adaptations of this kind come at a price, however, since they necessitate higher levels of investment that many farmers are unable to afford.

Everything thus stands or falls with the question of social justice. Only when farmers in West Africa are paid a fair price for their cocoa will they also be able to invest in climate mitigation and adaptation.
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One of the measures promoted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in this context is training. This is where farmers gain the necessary knowledge – how to water the plants correctly, how to care for soils in the long term or how to combat pests. GIZ backs an innovative approach that feeds research findings and experience from other countries into this training. Great hopes also rest on the breeding of plants that need less water.

Farmers are also given support with crop diversification so that they are not solely dependent on cocoa. This so-called diversification is good for local ecosystems – and offers further sources of income. Furthermore, the cultivation of vegetables, fruit and grain along with livestock farming make for food security all year round.

You can now visit a special place where this knowledge is imparted: the ANADER Agricultural School.

To ensure that the remaining forests are not lost, GIZ is also working to improve their protection and monitoring.
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Being able to process and sell products made from raw cocoa in one's own country offers job opportunities and the chance of higher incomes for everyone involved. So far, only a fraction of the cocoa from Côte d'Ivoire is directly used and consumed in the country. GIZ supports entrepreneurs who produce cocoa products locally and bring them to market.

Like Hervé Dobinou, who runs an innovative start-up.
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In order to improve the living conditions of cocoa-producing families and increase their income, the PRO-PLANTEURS project supports cocoa farmer organisations and their members. It pays special attention to women and young farmers.

Watch the video to find out how the farmers are working more professionally as a result.
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Cocoa farmers work physically hard – at the same time malnutrition is still a problem for many of them. People like Edwige N'Da Bomo are changing that: the nutrition trainer travels through the villages and explains what makes good food. Her conviction: Those who eat a balanced diet from the start are healthier and have a higher quality of life.

Edwige also uses her training for another important topic: birth certificates. Parents require them so that their children are entitled to a place at school. However, many fail to apply for them – one of many reasons for child labour later in life. Edwige explains the situation and shows how to get the certificate.
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Cocoa trees stand next to each other at an optimal distance of two and a half to three metres. Some higher trees protect the others from too much sun. Branches lacking fruit are regularly removed and cocoa pods are gently opened with a special tool. If a field is cared for and managed in this way, cocoa farmers earn a higher income.

The ANADER agricultural school in Gagnoa imparts knowledge about such correlations. The training here provides trainers and cooperative leaders with theoretical and practical knowledge on how to grow cocoa sustainably – and not only that. They also learn how a greater variety of products can help ensure economic security. Then they pass this knowledge on to smallholder farmers in the country.

But let the teachers speak themselves.
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The cocoa industry must become more sustainable and fairer. However, this can only be achieved if everyone along the supply chain makes their contribution. To this end, the German government, business and non-governmental organisations have founded the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa.

Collectively they pursue their goals: to improve the living conditions of cocoa farmers, to preserve forests and their biodiversity and to increase the market share of sustainable cocoa.

How this works exactly? Merit Buama, the Forum’s Chairwomen of the board, will tell you.

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Child labour is widespread in cocoa farming. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana alone, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million girls and boys work on cocoa plantations. The work is often hard and has a detrimental effect on the health of children, physically and mentally.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internatioale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been working in West Africa for years to prevent child labour. One of the objectives is to support cocoa farmers in achieving better crop yields. After all, poverty is the main cause of child labour – and children from families with good incomes are less likely to become victims of child labour.

Partnerships with local organisations are crucial to project work in this field. These organisations are familiar with conditions on the ground and know how to deal with the root problem. Due to its long-standing local presence, GIZ has the necessary network and the trust of those involved for this work.
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In Côte d’Ivoire, GIZ works with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an organisation that protects human rights and the rights of children in cocoa farming areas in West Africa.

GIZ and ICI have joined forces to develop a new method that not only documents child labour, but also helps to prevent it. Before it ever happens.

Allatin Brou, who manages ICI’s side of the project, describes the project’s guiding principles:
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Ten questions than can predict child labour

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The new method is based on two ideas. First, it is easy to use and is therefore used more widely. Secondly, it indicates how likely it is that child labour could occur in a particular region – a practical complement to the system used so far, which measures already existing child labour.

The way this works in practice is that members of cocoa cooperatives answer ten questions; for example, on the producers’ level of education, production volumes or the number of children. To identify the ten parameters, 30 cooperatives were examined.

Employees of the cooperatives upload the answers to an online portal. The portal uses the data to calculate the risk of child labour in each region. Analyses show that the method is reliable in around 90 per cent of cases.
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The tool is secure and offers additional advantages for cooperatives. For example, the data can be used to obtain certificates for sustainable trading. Certification makes it easier for cooperatives to export cocoa and secure higher prices. And this, in turn, reduces the risk of child labour and allows more children to go to school.
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Voxpops

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