Cocoa farming provides a livelihood for around six million people worldwide, while Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire alone produce 60% of global supply.
What cocoa farming means
Cocoa farming is not an easy way to make a living. Despite high demand, the global price has been unstable over recent decades, affected by weather and political events in Côte d’Ivoire, and aggravated by speculation on cocoa futures markets. In March 2011, prices were at a 32-year high before falling 42% by the end of the year. They recovered in 2014 amid industry concerns of a cocoa bean shortage. Such fluctuation in prices means cocoa farmers can’t predict how much they will get for their beans or plan for the future.
Producers often farm on less than 12 acres of land and face challenges such as Black Pod disease, which is killing one in 10 cocoa trees globally, and is responsible for a 20-30% reduction in crop yield. Small-scale farmers are also producing less cocoa each year due to the age of many cocoa trees. It is perhaps no wonder that against this backdrop the average age of a cocoa farmer is 50 as the younger generation is put off by poor working conditions and projected income.
How is Fairtrade making things better?
Fairtrade works to make cocoa farming a more sustainable way to earn a living so that farmers can better support themselves and their families. Latest figures show that in at the end of 2014, 129 producer organizations in 20 countries were Fairtrade certified, representing 179,800 small-scale farmers.
Fairtrade’s Minimum Price for cocoa is $2,000 per ton and for each ton the farmer organization receives an extra $200 Fairtrade Premium, which can be invested to improve the efficiency of the organization’s farms to increase the yields and quality of their cocoa, or in community projects.
— Comfort Kwaasibea
Fairtrade is a good thing. Things you take for granted may be hard to come by in Ghana. Fairtrade is good to the farmer and makes us happy. We would like to sell more cocoa to Fairtrade so more farmers can taste a better life.
In 2012-13, 45% of the Fairtrade Premium was spent on strengthening producer organizations — examples of spending include building storage facilities and establishing tree nurseries for new cocoa trees. Organizations are also encouraged to use at least 25% to increase the productivity of members’ farms and the quality of their cocoa. You can read more about what cocoa farmers in West Africa spend their Fairtrade Premium on here (PDF, 4.1 MB).
Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade certified cooperative in Ghana. Its 50,000 members have used their Premium to build wells, public toilets and a mobile health clinic. They also decided to spend money on leadership training and management, and other ways (particularly for women) to earn income, such as making palm oil and soap, breeding snails and milling corn.
Beyond better prices and the Fairtrade Premium, Fairtrade also provides farmer organizations with vital training and support to enable them to become successful businesses. For example, in Côte d’Ivoire training workshops saw farmers learning how to negotiate contracts with traders and broker a better deal for their members.