West Africa’s Cocoa Farmers Are Trapped by the Global Chocolate Industry
By Michael E Odijie
The chocolate industry is worth more than $80 billion a year. But some cocoa farmers in parts of West Africa are poorer now than they were in the 1970s or 1980s.
In other areas, artificial support for cocoa farming is creating a debt problem. Farmers are also still under pressure to supply markets in wealthy countries instead of securing their own future.
In research published last year I explored sustainability programmes designed to support cocoa farming in West Africa. My aim was to identify winners and losers.
I looked at initiatives such as CocoaAction, a $500 million “sustainability scheme” launched in 2014, and concluded that they were done in the interests of large multinationals. They did not necessarily relieve poverty or develop the region’s economies. In fact they created new problems.To sustain their livelihoods, the cocoa farmers of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana need to diversify away from cocoa production. But multinational chocolate companies need farmers to keep producing cocoa.
Photo courtesy of Irene Scott / AusAID.