Chocolate is made from cocoa (also called cacao). Cocoa grows only near the equator, and about 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from just two countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. When people talk about cocoa, these two countries of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are called West Africa.
Cocoa is farmed on plantations in rainforest areas threatened by climate change and deforestation. Cocoa pods are harvested by hand from cocoa trees using machetes – it’s very labour intensive. Inside the harvested pods are cocoa beans from which chocolate can eventually be made.
Almost all cocoa today is grown on small family farms. There are about 8 million people who grow cocoa in West Africa, and most of them are women. There are about 1.8 million different farming households. The average age of a cocoa farmer is 56.
No. Chocolate depends upon West Africa. There are important problems in West Africa that can be solved, but to solve those problems many people must work together.
Yes to both questions! Chocolate is fun and a miracle food in many ways, but it’s also tangled up with tough issues. People who think about “doing the right thing” when they shop will probably want to know a few things about West Africa and cocoa certification.
Poverty and child labour. “Child labour is correctly seen as both a symptom and a self-perpetuating cause of the poverty that is faced by many cocoa farmers.” From “The International Cocoa Initiative, Strategy 2015-2020”.
Environmental degradation, like deforestation and issues caused by climate change.
Farming practices can be improved, communities can be developed, supply chains can be traced, gender equality can be promoted, and the natural environment can be stewarded.
Many players must continue acting together to solve complicated problems: governments, agencies, cocoa and chocolate manufacturing companies, food processing companies, retailers, and even consumers.
Cocoa certification is today a best practice for driving change — it is a surefooted step along a path leading to a sustainable cocoa future.
Because conditions are right today to solve the problems of West Africa – many players are committed to action right now.
Because it’s right and fair: businesses should hold themselves accountable, and West Africa’s cocoa economy was built to supply the developed world.
Almost 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, and that means there can be no global cocoa economy, and therefore no chocolate, as they are known today, without sustainable cocoa in West Africa.
No logo alone can solve the challenge of cocoa sustainability in West Africa, but certification is leading the way: certifying agencies have set standards, raised awareness, pressed for business accountability, focused attention upon supply chains, and delivered financial help to communities.
Certification today is a best practice because it drives demand and lets markets operate to force positive developments.
There are several certifying bodies – Rainforest Alliance, UTZ (now merged with Rainforest Alliance), and Fairtrade are the best known.
Certification standards vary between agencies but the effect of certification upon cocoa sustainability in West Africa is much the same among them — the agencies are allies in a common cause and critiquing differences makes little sense.
Attractive features of Rainforest Alliance Certification™ include: a focus upon environmental stewardship; standards that address labour conditions; market penetration in North America; certification standards that do not fix prices but that instead encourage markets to pay more for better quality products and processes; and, a good on-the-ground market share in West Africa.
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is a coalition of independent nonprofit conservation organizations that promote the social and environmental sustainability of agricultural activities.
The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization working to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Farms that meet the SAN’s comprehensive standards for sustainability, as well as POs* that comply with SAN and Rainforest Alliance policies, are eligible for a license to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal and/or make Rainforest Alliance Certified™ claims for products grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms — Sustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance (2015), Chain of Custody Standard.
(*A PO is any company, like Cococo, that applies for chain-of-custody certification.)
We would love to have a deeper conversation about cocoa sustainability with anyone who wants to find out more. As a matter of fact, as part of our Cocoa and Forests Initiative Action Plan, we have publicly stated that one of our action items is to educate as many people as we can about this issue. Please contact us at Info@CococoInc.com and we can arrange a phone call or an in-person meeting.
Get in touch through our contact page! We will be happy to assist you.