Stronger Together, From Chocolate Lovers to Farmers: Here’s What We Are Doing to Help Fight COVID-19

Richard Scobey

Author Richard Scobey

President
World Cocoa Foundation
Photo taken before social distancing was implemented

Times like these remind us of how we are stronger when we work together. This is the thinking behind the announcement made this week by the cocoa and chocolate industry of a $835,000 donation to help fight the spreading coronavirus. More than thirty organizations* participated in the donation, which brings industry, governments, and civil society together to help the most vulnerable people in the cocoa supply chain: cocoa farmers and their families.

This donation, which adds to numerous individual donations and actions by companies, supports the national emergency plans of governments in West Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Through NGOs such as CARE, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Lutheran World Relief, this money will support health efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador and Indonesia.

Throughout uncertain times this spring, our sector has greatly benefited from technical discussions with global development partners like IFPRI, FAO, UNICEF, WEF, and WBCSD about how to ensure an effective emergency response on the ground, particularly related to food security, nutrition, and water and sanitation.

Fragile rural communities

As I am writing, the six major cocoa-origin countries together have about 100,000 cases of COVID-19. Faced with growing transmission levels, governments are taking critical steps to protect their citizens from the virus, but their health systems have limited capacity and they need urgent support. In most cocoa origin countries, the virus seems to mostly affect big cities, but the effects of the pandemic are already being felt in the countryside. Ecuador, the largest cocoa producer in Latin America, is going through a devastating outbreak in Guayaquil, the center of cocoa production in that country. In Brazil’s historic cocoa region of Bahia, the pandemic is rampant and few intensive care units are available to treat critical patients. Around the globe, rural cocoa-growing communities are particularly at risk since they cannot easily access clean water, health care, and social safety nets.

Companies’ long-term sustainability efforts help fight pandemic

The industry-wide effort announced today comes on top of numerous individual company contributions and help to farmers. Some companies made significant financial contributions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars (see some examples here, here and here) and others got involved on the ground in cocoa-growing countries. This work in farming communities was made possible because companies have worked for years with farmers to raise their incomes, reduce child labor, and reverse deforestation.

Take for instance the digital tools that cocoa companies have been implementing in West Africa within the framework of crucial cocoa traceability programs or farmer training. They are now leveraged to amplify government measures and the advice of national health institutions needed to curb the spread of the virus. Being able to activate this virtual network is even more important as companies are doing their best to avoid becoming a cause of the virus’s further spread and following government recommendations on travel and social distancing.

On top of actively disseminating these messages, companies ensure a more widespread implementation of preventive hygiene measures by donating critical emergency supplies such as masks, soap, sanitizers, clean water equipment, and medical goods to cocoa farming communities.

Cocoa and chocolate companies and their logistics partners are stepping up for cocoa farmers as they are also challenged to adapt their supply chains and minimize disruption to the global food supply in a volatile environment. In consumer countries, World Cocoa Foundation members large and small have donated candies, chocolate (see here, here and here), lodging, and various food or textile products to food banks and hospitals. One chocolate company even repurposed manufacturing facilities to produce thousands of masks for their community!

This is a difficult time, but also a time where we feel more connected than ever, while facing a common challenge. The cocoa and chocolate world will no doubt come out of this crisis with reinforced partnerships throughout the supply chain, and a renewed sense of purpose and responsibility in tackling sustainability issues.

*More than 30 companies and organizations from around the world contributed to this industry-wide response, including Altinmarka, the Association of the German Confectionery Industry (BDSI), August Storck KG,  Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate, Carletti, Cémoi, Clasen Quality Chocolate, CWT Europe B.V, ECOM, Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd., Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO),  GCB Cocoa, Guittard Chocolate, Intercontinental Exchange, JB Cocoa, Lindt & Sprüngli, Luker Chocolate, Mars Wrigley, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Olam Cocoa, Pit Süßwaren/Becks Cocoa, Ritter Sport, Seattle Chocolate, the Swiss Foundation of the Cocoa and Chocolate Industry, SUCDEN Cocoa, The Hershey Company, Touton S.A., Whittaker’s, and WCF.