The bienneal report Cocoa Barometer by organisation Voice Network has recently been released and this year, discusses many of the same issues that have been plaguing the cocoa sector: in particular, discussion around sustainability with regards to deforestation, loss of biodiversity and climate change.
According to the report, these issues remain challenges to the cocoa sector and fall into three categories: human rights – child labour, lack of education – environmental protection and living income – rising costs of living, rising production costs and low yields.
Research from the report reflects that approaches to raising farmer poverty are not currently going to bridge the income gap. “Living income as a concept has become a key objective for the cocoa sector in the past few years, however it hasn’t changed core business activities so far,” the report writes.
In order for the cocoa sector to become sustainable – meaning not only protecting the environment but also by ensuring cocoa farming households can earn a living income and rights of marginalised groups are protected – requires systemic change. The development of supply chain legislation in cocoa consuming nations is a “positive development”, the report says, on the back of the EU passing due dilligence legislation to combat deforestation and biodiversity loss.
The rate of deforestation in West African countries Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana slowed down in the 2010s but has been on the rise. Climate change is a major challenge which is already changing regions of cocoa production, as rainfall patterns have become altered. These findings are presented alongside solutions such as diverse agroforestry systems, organic farming, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and importantly, regulation in producing and consuming countries are all need to tackle environmental challenges in cocoa, the report says.
Child labour is one of several issues facing human rights violations in the cocoa sector – gender inequality, infant malnutrition, lack of access to education and labour rights violations all paint a bleak picture. According to the report, 1.5 million children in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are working on cocoa farms performing age-inappropriate labour. However, findings show that children are involved in fewer hazardous activities and the number of hours they are working on farms is reducing; but the overall number of children working is growing.
Suggestions include prevention approaches through community outreach as well as child labour monitoring and remediation systems (CLMRS) which, when done properly, can identify 60% of children in a community involved in child labour.
Due dilligence legislation introduced by the EU and UK have been welcomed by the report but it says there are still gaps in legislation which need to be filled or improved upon, and there is the challenge of enforcing legislation already in place. “Transparency and accountability are essential to make sustainability efforts both credible and effective,” it writes, which can be achieved by setting up credible national traceability systems which need to include data on household composition, income, child labour, etc.
Recommendations for stakeholders is to scale up efforts “significantly”, involve farmers and society as co-decision makers and develop transparency and accountability mechanisms; for companies this is to commit to a living income reference price, implement transparent CLMRs and full supply chain transparency; for the governments this is to include living income as a key part of human rights, enforce protection of forests and implement national cocoa monitoring.
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