According to the “Cocoa Barometer,” a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector, cocoa-growing communities, particularly in West Africa, are facing poverty, child labor and deforestation that have been made worse by a rapid fall in prices for cocoa. More than ninety percent of West Africa’s original forests are gone and widely touted efforts in the cocoa industry to improve the lives of farmers, communities and the environment made in the past decade are having little impact.
Child labor remains at very high levels in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone. Child labor is due to a combination of root causes, including structural poverty, increased cocoa production, and a lack of schools and other infrastructure. Not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching their commitments of a 70 percent reduction of child labor by 2020.
Today, an average cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire earns a third of what could be considered a living income. It is glaringly obvious that there must be a sector-wide goal of achieving a living income, a global moratorium on deforestation and a move from voluntary to mandatory requirements on human rights, transparency and accountability.
“As long as poverty, child labor and deforestation are rife in the cocoa sector, chocolate remains a guilty pleasure,” said Antonie Fountain, co-author of the Barometer. “Current approaches will not solve the problem at scale. Companies and governments need to acknowledge the urgency and make a change. Efforts that cover less than 50 percent of communities cannot be called ‘solutions.’”.