16 Dec 2021

Five ways Fairtrade chocolate makes any season brighter

Here are five ways that Fairtrade chocolate makes the holiday season – or any season – even brighter.

Cocoa ECAKOOG Cote dIvoire_870
Trainings for cocoa farmers on the Fairtrade Standards are a core part of the West Africa Cocoa Programme.
Christoph Köstlin

Whether you’re inclined to eat a bit more chocolate at this time of year, or you’re a year-round choco-holic – we’re here to remind you that anytime is the right time for fairness!

Here are five ways that Fairtrade chocolate makes the holiday season – or any season – even brighter.

1. Fairtrade cocoa farmers are part of strong cooperatives.

Farmer-owned cooperatives are central to Fairtrade. When small-scale farmers join together and organize themselves democratically, they have more resources and more power in trade relationships, ultimately resulting in higher incomes.

More than 70 percent of Fairtrade cocoa comes from West Africa. Since its inception in 2016, the Fairtrade West Africa Cocoa Programme provides training and other services to cocoa cooperatives, to strengthen them as membership organizations and as sustainable business partners.

In 2020, 270 cooperatives participated in the West Africa Cocoa Programme and received a set of basic training sessions and services. More intensive support is provided to about a third of these cooperatives. At the highest level of support, cooperatives and their farmer members choose priority topics based on their own goals, including governance, financial management, good agricultural practices, health and safety, gender rights, income diversification, and more.

Here are some figures from our new report on the West Africa Cocoa Programme:

  • About 85 percent of farmers feel their cooperatives listen to their concerns and act in their best interests.
  • Almost six in ten cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire reported their cooperative is run effectively or very effectively. In Ghana, that figure is more than nine in ten.
  • 100 percent of surveyed cooperative managers said their most important training needs were being met, and they found the training quality high.
  • 100 percent of cooperative managers – up from 89 percent in 2019 – reported that the WACP trainings contributed directly to positive improvements in their organization, such as the creation of household income activities, good agricultural practices, better SPO management, better adherence to the Fairtrade Standards and more.
  • Farmers report strong understanding of child rights (scoring 2.7 out of a possible 3.0 assessment scale).

“We have been trained in several issues including child protection, financial management focusing on how we can save for our future and use our Fairtrade Premium efficiently. Through the West Africa Cocoa Programme, we have established village savings and loan associations in all our communities. These are helping individual members to cultivate the habit of saving and get access to low interest loans.” -- Francis Gyamera, President of Kukuom Union in Ghana

2. Farmers are guaranteed a financial safety net, even if global cocoa prices go down.

Fairtrade is the only major certification label with a guaranteed minimum price for cocoa. Farmers can always negotiate and earn more when market prices are higher.

In Côte d’Ivoire, where most Fairtrade cocoa comes from, prices have dropped by 18 percent compared to a year ago. This means the Fairtrade Minimum Price is providing an essential safety net for the cocoa that farmers are able to sell on Fairtrade terms.

The Fairtrade Premium is an additional amount that cooperatives earn, on top of the selling price, that they decide how to invest in their businesses and communities. In 2020, Fairtrade cocoa cooperatives earned more than €37 million in Premium funds. Cocoa cooperatives invested about half of their Premium funds in 2019-2020 in services to farmer members, including cash payments to increase incomes, and agricultural tools and inputs.

3. Women cocoa farmers are growing as business owners and leaders.

Fairtrade Standards require equal treatment of women and men, and cooperatives must develop a gender policy to help guide their specific goals for including women as members and leaders. Women’s Committees within cooperatives are one way that women farmers can raise up issues and find solutions.

Through our WACP monitoring, we've established that many members of cocoa cooperatives in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire believe in traditional gender roles. Both men and women (albeit women to a lesser extent) believe that men make better leaders.

In response we launched the Fairtrade Women’s School of Leadership in Côte d’Ivoire, which just graduated a new cohort of women cocoa farmers – and male allies – who are developing themselves as leaders within their organizations, and realizing their own economic empowerment. Graduates of the year-long programme, which now total more than 120, have skills in finance, negotiation and decision-making, among other topics, and develop their own income generation projects which their cooperatives support them to launch and maintain.

One recent graduate, Kouamé Aya Béatrice, is a cocoa farmer and member of ECAKOOG cooperative, mother of four and active in her community. Thanks to the Women’s School of Leadership, she sees a role for herself in her cooperative, especially in better managing its women's group. Now she doesn’t feel limited, especially in what she can achieve as a woman despite limited education: “I have learned that rights are not a function of whether you are literate or not.”

4. Farmers are making progress toward living incomes.

In West Africa, the majority of cocoa farmers still live in poverty, driven by many factors including small farm sizes, low productivity and low global prices. Even Fairtrade farmers are not immune, especially given that many cooperatives are only selling a portion of their harvest on Fairtrade terms and earning the accompanying Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium.

We’re committed to putting the pieces in place that will enable cocoa farmers to earn living incomes. We’ve set Fairtrade Living Income Reference Prices for cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, higher than our Minimum Price, which eight companies are voluntarily paying as part of innovative living income pilot projects.

The West Africa Cocoa Programme also contributes to farmers being able to improve their incomes, by assessing needs, expand to other income sources, and for cooperatives, using their Fairtrade Premium funds strategically to expand their business. This year we published a follow-up study of Ivorian cocoa farming households, which found that household incomes increased by 85 percent compared to our 2018 study. Read more.

“I own several farms, including eight hectares of cocoa trees, 2.5 hectares of rubber trees, some palm trees and food crops. Thanks to the guidance of my coach [trained by Fairtrade Africa staff], I understood that it was important to diversify my sources of income. I have also received some training on record-keeping. All this is very advantageous for me.” -- N’da Boa Kouassi, member of CAPRESSA cooperative in east Côte d’Ivoire

5. There’s a lot of deliciousness to choose from!

Fairtrade certified chocolate producers are found in more than 20 countries, primarily in West Africa but also in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador and more. Whether you’re looking for baking chocolate, cocoa power, or specialty origins, the more than 440,000 cocoa farmers represented in the Fairtrade system have you covered.

If you’re looking for Fairtrade chocolate in your country, check the website of your national Fairtrade organization, or the Fairtrade Finder on our website (filter for “cocoa” and “licensed” and search for your country).

Chocolate is delicious – but fair and sustainable chocolate tastes so much better. So grab your favourite Fairtrade chocolate today and enjoy!