Cocoa farmers face enormous challenges. That is particularly true for West Africa. A lot of West African producers earn a low income from cocoa, which is often below the international poverty threshold. The impact of these living conditions characterized by poverty are abusive forms of child labour, food insecurity and malnutrition. Also, the agricultural practices in place are often harmful to the environment.

It is therefore a concern of GISCO members to improve the living conditions in the cocoa sector, to take full account of human rights and children’s rights and to achieve living wages for cocoa farmer families. Respective efforts must be supported by conducive policy frameworks.

No chocolate without cocoa

More and more farmers fall back on other crops or stop cocoa cultivation completely. It also threatens a continuous supply of cocoa in the long run. Not only avowed enthusiasts of chocolate and chocolate products may be concerned. Cocoa is an important commodity and basis for industries of different branches, trading companies and a lot of exporters.

Demonstrating social responsibility

For companies of the confectionery industry and the retail grocery trade, social responsibility starts with the primary producers, the cocoa farmers. Frequently, cocoa farmers lack know-how and means to produce the quality the market demands for. A lot of companies already support cocoa farmers through manifold measures, e.g. training and professional training, practical education and special trainings or distribution of fertilizers and seedlings.

Civil society organizations, especially the standard-setting organizations, provide expertise to support farmers. Many of these organizations or partners of their network are present on-site and fight for the concerns of the people in the producing countries. Thus, they often become a link between the public and the corporate sector.

Until now, there has not been a sufficiently coordinated exchange regarding the impact of these activities among the different stakeholders along the cocoa value chain. But this exchange is necessary in order to identify best practices, to learn from them and to spread them. The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa advocates this.

Achieving something together

The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa aims at achieving a sustainably thriving cocoa sector. GISCO members take a common stand on this. They exchange their experiences and knowledge and strengthen their cooperation where it is useful. Apart from economic and ecological ones, social aspects are at the forefront: better living conditions of cocoa farmers and their family and elimination of abusive forms of child labour. The share of cocoa derived from sustainable sources is to be increased continuously. It is the only way to achieve a sound basis both for the cocoa farmers and their families and for the industry. GISCO cooperates closely with the cocoa producing countries to put across its concern. Another important approach is networking at national and international level with organizations pursuing similar interests.

GISCO implements the project PRO-PLANTEURS together with the Ivorian and the German government. With PRO-PLANTEURS, GISCO aims at improving the living conditions of 20,000 cocoa farmers and their families in Côte d'Ivoire. A basis for an improved, year-round more balanced nutrition is to be created through crop diversification. Since 2013, GISCO supports the initiative Certification Capacity Enhancement (CCE).

How does GISCO operate?

The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa:

  • Develops quality criteria for effective and sustainable project approaches;
  • Supports direct implementation of sustainable cultivation methods;
  • Networks and cooperates with already existing initiatives which support sustainable cocoa production;
  • Enables exchange, communication and knowledge transfer;
  • Offers services and guidelines in the field of sustainability in cocoa, especially for member companies;
  • Informs the public about sustainability approaches, successes and progresses in the cocoa producing regions.

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