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After a 2020 trick or treating season spoilt by pandemic restrictions, children around the United States are looking forward to a more traditional Halloween this October 31. As always, chocolate is set to be the favorite treat of kids and parents. But some might have come across click-bait stories touting a so-called “chocolate extinction”. There’s also a worry because of conditions on family farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where cocoa, the bean that is used to make your chocolate, is grown.
At the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), we work every day to make cocoa more sustainable. Here are 3 things you need to know.
About 1.6 million children work alongside their families on small cocoa farms in West Africa. Why? These families often struggle with poverty, limited access to infrastructure, or do not know 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 companies are improving the situation, with fewer children in danger where programs are in place. But more needs to be done, and by 2025, chocolate companies want 100% of their direct supply of cocoa to be covered by such programs.
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. Local authorities actively pursue, arrest and bring to justice perpetrators.
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.” West African forests are threatened notably because cocoa is plagued with low yields, and farmers need to feed their families. 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. Since 2018, companies have distributed almost 10.4 million forest trees. Companies also look for more information on where the cocoa in your chocolate comes from, with 605,000 cocoa farms mapped in 2020. Another key activity in 2020 was to train 620,000 farmers so they can grow more cocoa on less land.
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 share 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 agroforestry. We’re helping with training on professional farming and soil fertility. We’re also distributing trees and good quality cocoa plants, to ensure your sweet treat will be there for your children’s children Halloween too!
Happy Halloween to all!