Over the last couple of weeks, a video has been going around on social media that shows cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast apparently tasting chocolate for the first time.
The video has reached and touched many viewers and is a powerful way to let more people know about a stark reality. Cocoa farmers do not earn much from their trade. In fact they earn barely enough to live on, to support a family and pay a decent wage to workers, let alone to buy things like chocolate bars.
Understanding this reality is essential when you consider one of the darkest sides of the industry: child labor. For a long time, child labor has been a fact of life in much of the cocoa industry. Families feel that they need the extra labor on their farm, and studies have also shown major problems with people trafficking and the exploitation of migrant workers.
However, efforts are underway to change this situation. The prohibition and prevention of child labor is a vital part of the UTZ program. In 2014 we introduced new requirements that include even more measures to prevent child labor. All farmers have to receive awareness raising on the issue, and there will now be local community representatives with specific responsibility for stopping child labor. On a broader level, the UTZ program enables farmers to increase their productivity, and therefore to increase their incomes – reducing the need for children to support their parents in the fields.
UTZ is having a rapidly increasing positive impact on the industry. In 2013, 13% of all the cocoa produced globally was UTZ certified. When you also consider the other major sustainability programs that figure goes up to almost a quarter of the world total – a major achievement.
Of course, certification programs are not the only actors here. We’re talking about an incredibly complex situation, where infrastructure, health and education services, and government policy all play a vital role. Even on a certified farm, it is never possible to guarantee 100% that no children ever work there. To fully eradicate child labor, a powerful coalition of all stakeholders – including local communities and governments – needs to work together.
In addition, while the percentage of cocoa that is sustainably produced is quickly going up, we do need to see more demand for sustainable cocoa from the major chocolate companies. We’re pleased that so many of our partners have already made major commitments to scale up their sourcing of certified, sustainable cocoa over the coming years.
What we are striving for is a world where cocoa farming offers a sustainable livelihood; a world where no child is forced to work, but can go to school instead. In other words, a world where sustainable farming is the norm.
If you want to know more about the efforts UTZ undertakes to prohibit and prevent child labor, please read our position paper available on our website.
By Britta Wyss Bisang, Standards Director at UTZ Certified