Today is World Chocolate Day, an annual celebration of chocolate happening across the globe. While in Ghana Chocolate day is on the 14th February we have to remember that the chocolate industry is truly international, and the worlds cocoa commerce habits have a direct impact on local Ghanaian cocoa workers.
Cocoa production has been the backbone of Ghana’s economy since the 1870s. The cocoa industry supports many people throughout Ghana, Cocoa employs 800,000 farmers alone. Moreover, 30% of the country’s export earnings in the agricultural sector come from cocoa.
Although the chocolate industry is ever growing the workers at the other end of the supply chain often see very little of the rewards.
Last year the chocolate retail industry was worth $107bn but Ghana, the world’s second largest cocoa producer, earned only $2bn.
Before we have spoken about the rising child labour and trafficking associated with the chocolate industry, a horrible reality of farmers searching for cheaper sources of labour for replanting.
In this article we are going to explore what is meant by cocoa sustainability and some of the farmers and schemes that are trying to make cocoa farming more sustainable, ethical and fairer.
At UppFutures our goal is to achieve sustainable change, and while we focus on child education it is important to paint the picture of how sustainability is a whole societal shift.
THE LIMITS TO COCOA
Historically cocoa has been harvested using the slash and burn farming technique. The Slash and Burn entails cutting down the natural vegetation, forest areas, and burning it in order to clear the land for cultivation. Then when the land becomes infertile a new plot is found and the process is repeated.
While this is manageable in terms of subsistence farming, the continual use of this technique in commercial cocoa farming has brought about mass deforestation. In West Africa the two main Cocoa producing countries, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana lost 25% and 8% of their primary forests between 2002-2019.
The impacts of this deforestation are huge. A damaged environment is no place for communities to prosper and with cocoa farming being one of the main sources of income for Ghana and alternative has to be found.
This is where education is so vital. The World Cocoa Foundation paired with 35 leading cocoa and chocolate companies joined together in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative to end deforestation.
What have they done?
They’ve pushed for Agroforesty, educating farmers on how mixing forest and cocoa trees can restore ecosystems and provide alternative sources of income. In 2020 alone 6 million forest trees were distributed.
This equates to 620,000 farmers trained in good agricultural practices. The techniques taught generate better yields on cocoa farms, leading to better livelihoods and importantly more sustainable agricultural practices.
This drive to strengthen the cocoa industry in both financial and sustainable ways has a direct link to the possibilities of education for all.
The more cocoa industries become concerned with sustainable change the more likely they will become invested with the local environment. Making education a standard for adult cocoa farmers integrates education into Ghana’s cultural fabric, making it more normal. As this standard is set, families may become more inclined to get their children into school.
Moreover, if as the Cocoa Initiative has shown, sustainable changes to cocoa production creates better crop yields, communities will naturally become more financially stable. This opens the door to education.
However it is naïve to think it is such a simple fix. It is not and we are aware of that. Education has to be made more accessible, and the gap has to be bridged to address the absence of education services in local cocoa farming communities.
Nonetheless, a change in intention to switch to sustainable methods of commerce, work and living results in industries that care about the bigger picture. Sustainability means caring about the future, which means taking care of the communities that keep the cocoa industry ticking, including children.
YOU CAN HELP
At UppFutures it is more than just the uniforms we provide. Your donations matter, they create change.
Help us get more children into school and nurture the next generation of minds that can keep making Ghana a more sustainable, green and fair economy.