One of the most disturbing things we (International Labor Rights Forum) learned last month when I met with cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire was that despite the millions of dollars being spent on interventions to address labor abuses in the cocoa industry, they remain largely unaware of their rights as farmers. It is clear we must continue advocating for dignity and justice on cocoa plantations.
These farmers are not asking for much. When I spoke with them, they wanted better roads for transporting their goods to market, access to credit to help them purchase the inputs they need, and accurate knowledge of global prices to ensure they can negotiate a fair price for themselves. A few simple changes along these lines would ultimately improve cocoa production and provide the livelihood the farmers need to ensure their children can go to school and that they can afford to hire adult day laborers during the harvest. But the focus of current industry-led efforts to eliminate forced and child labor in cocoa harvesting is on increasing yields and eliminating children from the fields, largely ignoring the needs of cocoa farmers and ultimately making it more difficult to help them protect their children.
We are pulling together our conclusions from our most recent research, as well as recommendations for improving social programs for farmers, for an upcoming report that will reinvigorate our cocoa campaign and focus the dialogue on providing dignity to the farmers who harvest our cocoa. We are hopeful this dialogue can move forward now, given renewed commitments from the Ivorian government and the dynamism of emerging and growing farmer associations, which aim to build member-based solutions. You can show your love for farmers this week by doing one of the following:
See: The Dark Side of Chocolate: This documentary by the late filmmaker and activist Robin Romano shows in gripping detail the people who suffer for cheap cocoa.
Purchase your Valentine’s chocolate from brands that source their cocoa from fair-trade, farmer-owned cooperatives, like Equal Exchange. You can purchase these chocolate products online, at Whole Foods, or from select fair trade stores and co-ops.
Working together, we will bring the voice of these farmers forward and ensure their interests are inserted into the conversations industry and governments are having about worker rights in Cote d’Ivoire.
Support ILRF’s cocoa work today.
Thanks for all you do.
International Labor Rights Forum