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Naturland demands fair wages for cocoa farmers
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Cocoa is the main source of income for over five million smallholders, mostly from West Africa. At the fourth World Cocoa Conference from 22nd to 25th April, 1,500 players from the cocoa industry met to exchange views and also to discuss the working conditions for cocoa farmers. On this occasion, Naturland demanded the conference’s participants to take action by passing concrete resolutions in favour of cocoa smallholders.
Prior to the conference, Hubert Heigl, Naturland president said: “Anyone wanting to end hunger, poverty and abusive child labour in the cocoa sector needs to make sure the cocoa producers earn enough to secure their existence. This can only be achieved by paying fair minimum prices and guaranteeing planning security by concluding long-term supply contracts which protect the smallholders and their families from the extreme price fluctuations on the world cocoa market.”
Protest demonstration in Berlin
The conference, organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), aimed at increasing the proportion of sustainably grown cocoa to improve the living standards of cocoa farmers. However, reality shows that despite various schemes and initiatives, the worldwide cocoa business is still ruthless as farmers are subject to world market speculation as well as pricing pressures from major corporations – circumstances, which often result in poverty and child labour.
This was criticized by a civil society alliance during a protest demonstration (among others sponsored by the Forum Fairer Handel) with over 100 children from seven schools, activists and a human-sized chocolate bar. The alliance calls for a paradigm shift in cocoa policy: In order to end the poverty of farmers and to stop child labour, politicians and companies must also guarantee higher prices for cocoa. According to the new cocoa barometer, the income of cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast would have to triple in order to secure their existence. "Chocolate is only truly sustainable if cocoa farmers in West Africa have an income that enables them to live in dignity," criticises Johannes Schorling of the development policy network INKOTA.
Organic and fair trade is the key
“Cocoa cultivation is only sustainable if the farming system is organic and the farmers are paid a fair price,” commented Heigl, president of Naturland. Throughout the world, around 4,000 Naturland farmers are growing organic cocoa in mixed cropping systems covering an area of over 12,000 hectares. The German organic association places emphasis on diversified cocoa cultivation between a variety of shade-trees. By providing a habitat for many beneficial insects, the semi-natural cultivation system also contributes to pest control. Moreover, besides producing cocoa, mixed cropping systems also supply avocados, citrus fruits and timber either for the families’ own use or for sale on the local market providing in additional income. Reliable long-term co-operation with fair trade partner organisations guarantee Naturland farmers certainty for planning and fair prices for their cocoa.