Chocolate Is For Lovers. Five Reasons Why It’s Also Forever

Author Charlotte Grant

Communications & Marketing Manager
World Cocoa Foundation

If, like me, you are a chocolate lover, chances are that your heart often sinks when you see click bait stories about cocoa, the bean that is used to make your chocolate, on the internet. These stories sometimes refer to so-called ‘chocolate extinction’ or share scary accounts on working conditions on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the two main producing countries.

At the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), we work every day to make cocoa sustainable so you can enjoy chocolate and cocoa farmers can prosper. The cocoa supply chain is complex, and the journey from the cocoa tree to your Valentine’s Day date includes lots of different players, technologies to transform the ingredients, and logistics.

Here’s what you need to know when you share chocolate with your loved ones this February.

 1. Child labor is a major issue in cocoa, and a complex problem to solve.

About 1.6 million children are in child labor in cocoa in West Africa, working alongside their families on small farms. Why? These families often struggle with poverty , limited access to infrastructure, and/or lack of awareness that child labor is bad. This is not right, but education is now improving, and most children in child labor attend school. The worry is that, after school or on weekends, they do work that is dangerous for them, like using machetes or spraying chemicals. Cocoa and chocolate company interventions are improving the situation, with fewer children involved in dangerous tasks where programs are in place, but these need to be urgently expanded. Chocolate companies have a 2025 target to cover 100% of their direct supply chains with monitoring and remediation programs and are looking for partners to expand that effort.

Child labor is not the same as forced labor. Though unacceptable, forced labor is extremely rare in cocoa, with about 1% of children in child labor estimated to be in that serious situation. Any evidence found by companies is reported to the local authorities who have the power to pursue, arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators.

2. Climate change is affecting cocoa farmers. Here’s how we can help.

Since 2013, a series of media articles have caused cocoa farmers and chocolate lovers alike to worry that chocolate could become ‘extinct’ in the next few decades because of climate change. These stories tend to selectively interpret scientific research that is based on a continued ‘business as usual’ approach to growing cocoa. But our work on cocoa sustainability is anything but ‘business as usual’. WCF promotes Climate Smart Cocoa and ‘more cocoa on less land’. We’re helping with training on professional farming and soil fertility. We’re also distributing shade trees and good quality cocoa plants, and creating agroforestry plots to ensure your sweet treat will be there for your grandchildren’s Valentines too!

3. Cocoa trees get sick. Here’s how farmers are looking after their plants.

A deadly virus called Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) is threatening cocoa. CSSV spreads through insects. We don’t know how to cure the trees once they get sick, so they must be cut down. We’ve made good progress on detecting the virus early to prevent it from spreading. And planting forest trees on and around cocoa farms can help too. We also think that, down the road, science can find virus-tolerant cocoa plants.

 4. Cocoa is causing deforestation in West Africa. Here’s the plan to put an end to this.

Deforestation is both an effect and a cause of climate change. Yao Ahou, a cocoa farmer in Ndenou, Côte d’Ivoire, will tell you, “there is less rain because we cut down all the big trees.” Indeed, poor farmers work in West African forests to make more money and feed their families, causing tragic tree cover loss. But it doesn’t have to be this way. WCF, the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and international organizations joined in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. The objective is to end cocoa-related forest loss. Concrete actions are currently under way in West Africa. For instance, companies are distributing almost 12 million forest trees and mapping one million farms.

5. Chocolate can be a force for good. Forest-positive cocoa brings peace and fights deforestation.

Today in Colombia, your chocolate is key to the peace process. Cocoa is a sweet alternative for brave Colombian farmers who break away from illegal crops. Its unique qualities as a shade loving plant protect jobs and precious forests.

In the nearby Brazilian Amazon, native tribes are fighting for their survival and their home – the jungle. There, cocoa can provide jobs and protect the forest. After all, cocoa originated and has been grown and loved in this part of the world for thousands of years.

Here’s to another thousand years of chocolaty Valentines!