Securing a living income for cocoa farmers

For many of us chocolate is a treat, for some even a guilty pleasure and for many something we take for granted. But what about the cocoa farmers, who are producing the key ingredient, what is the impact it has on their lives? Is cocoa providing them and their families with a living income?

This year’s cocoa barometer highlighted that despite the fact that cocoa farmers were growing a product in great demand that grows only in a small part of the world, many cocoa farmers live in poverty. So, what can be done?

Better farming, better future.

M. Fofana Danon- Cocoa Farmer - Cooperative CINPA -Agboville - Cote d'Ivoire in October 2013At UTZ we believe that by supporting farmers to implement good agricultural practices they are able to increase their productivity, helping them increase their income, and helping them to increase the entrepreneurial skills which can help them access new markets. This leads to positive outcomes for the farmer and their families.

An independent study of UTZ Certified cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire published in 2014 found that 82 percent of UTZ farmers saw their living conditions improve through increased income, and more than half of them use their increased income for their children’s education.

The trend towards sustainably produced cocoa is rising continuously, which is good news for UTZ Certified farmers, in 2014 UTZ sustainable cocoa was enough to produce nearly 10 billion (sustainable) bars of chocolate. Major chocolate companies have made commitments to go 100% sustainable in their cocoa supply in the next 5 to 10 years.   These are all positive steps, but the reality remains that for many cocoa farmers they are still earning barely enough money to survive. Let alone to pay their workers a living wage or earn an income that allows them to afford the basic standards of living including housing, food and education.

A living wage or income

The Cocoa Barometer demonstrated that much more needs to be done, from the governments in producer countries, by the industry – as well as by us.

An important element to further expand our positive impact, is the definition of a living wage for workers and living income for farmers. A living income is crucial for cocoa farmers in order to ensure they earn enough to be able to afford a basic standard of living to include:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • A small amount of savings for when the unexpected happens
  • And for farmers enough income to be able to invest in their farms for the longer term security.

We at UTZ have been working with the other sustainability standards on a key step in ensuring a living wage / income becomes a reality for farmers worldwide. Working with farmer’s organisations, researchers and based on a method of calculation devised by economists Richard and Martha Anker, the living wage benchmark takes into account the actual costs of food, health care, housing, education, transport and a small amount of savings in order to allow workers to be prepared for the unexpected.  The calculation takes into account that in some cases agricultural workers will receive in kind payments in the guise of housing or other benefits, and calculates by region and sector an actual living wage.

This is important as it will enable us to show where a living wage is not being paid, and therefore where additional actions need to be taken either at a local, regional, national or company level.

Cinpa farmers in Agboville

In addition, our recently revised code includes taking steps towards the payment of a living wage – when this is greater than a minimum wage. The new code requires that employers take steps to improve worker wages in line with local living wage levels. Here we require a comparison between the workers remuneration, including cash and in-kind wages, with living wage estimates provided by UTZ based on the benchmarks. Where wages are below living wage, steps should be taken to increase wages towards living wage levels over time.

For cocoa farmers, many of whom are not workers but independent farmers this is also an important step, as the living wage levels will also demonstrate where an income is less than enough to live on.

We are working with the cocoa farmers to ensure a better future, but we all need to play our part, what will you do to ensure cocoa farmers earn enough to live on?

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