The Fight for Living Incomes

In 2019, we launched an ambitious new public campaign, one that would ask our government and the chocolate industry (worth £4billion in the UK alone) to lead the way to a sustainable future for cocoa farmers.

Our vision for living incomes is both radical and simple; we want all cocoa farmers to earn a living income from growing cocoa. A living income would provide farmers with a decent standard of living, enough to cover all their cocoa farming costs and enough to cover their basic human rights, like a nutritious diet, children’s education and healthcare.

We launched the Living Incomes Campaign at a time when the global price for cocoa had just crashed, pushing many farmers deeper into poverty, creating an even more urgent situation for the millions of families relying on cocoa production. 

A Fairtrade report, Craving a Change in Chocolate, released at the same time, revealed that the average income for cocoa farmers (74p per day) is less than half of what is required to achieve a living income. The research also showed that while the price of cocoa needs to increase significantly in order for cocoa farmers to escape poverty, it is going to take more than that for the most marginalised farmers, trapped in a deeply unfair trading system, to achieve a living income.

Choosing Fairtrade chocolate was a critical first step - it is the most tangible action individuals in the UK can take to improve farmers’ incomes right now. Over the past five years, Fairtrade cocoa farming co-operatives have earned £107 million in Fairtrade Premium to spend on projects of their choice that benefit their businesses and communities. Fairtrade Premium is one of the things that sets Fairtrade apart from other certifications; on top of the price farmers and workers receive for their produce or labour, they receive an extra sum of money to invest in improving the quality of their lives.

While our shopping choices play a vital part in achieving living incomes for cocoa farmers, many other actions must also be considered. Fairtrade’s living income strategy sets out a comprehensive approach bringing together tactics such as raising productivity, farm efficiency and empowerment of women leaders in farming communities. The strategy also focuses on the crucial role that consumers and citizens can play in calling for lasting structural change.

It is clear that governments, chocolate companies, traders, retailers, shoppers and civil society must come together if we are to achieve living incomes for cocoa farmers.

Read the Craving a Change in Chocolate report (pdf)

She Deserves a Living Income - Fairtrade Fortnight 2019

Besides much advocacy work and the many conversations with commercial businesses that Fairtrade has been carrying out both in public and behind the scenes, Living Incomes has been the focus of our last two Fairtrade Fortnight campaigns. 

Focusing on the stories of women cocoa farmers, we launched our public Living Incomes campaign in Fairtrade Fortnight 2019 by calling on the UK government to play its part; making living incomes a priority for UK-funded aid projects, in business and human rights legislation, and to join an international taskforce to coordinate industry efforts towards living incomes.

Fairtrade supporters and staff handed in a 51,851 signature strong petition to 10 Downing Street and Secretary of State for International Development, Alok Sharma replied, praising our campaign and pledging to champion the Fairtrade movement. Whilst this was welcome and a good start to our campaign, we have since continued to encourage the evolving UK government to go further to place living incomes and wages at the heart of its Economic Development strategy, including working with businesses on programmes that will enable farmers and workers to earn more.

Since setting our agenda for change, we’ve seen a surge of activity and support from hundreds of MPs, thanks to widespread community engagement by Fairtrade groups and supporters. We have heard powerful speeches from women cocoa farmers at packed receptions in Parliament, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fairtrade.

Infographic on Fairtrade Fortnight 2019

She Deserves Fairtrade - Fairtrade Fortnight 2020

With our political demands firmly registered and beginning to gain traction, we turned our attention back to growing the public support for Fairtrade chocolate. The ethical market place has become ever more crowded and confusing for consumers and it was clear we needed to tell the Fairtrade story in new ways to make clear the unique benefits only Fairtrade brings.

Our campaign seeks to achieve living incomes for all farmers irrespective of gender, but we could not ignore the special role of women in cocoa. Further research into the challenges they face revealed that, on average, women cocoa farmers earn just a third of their male counterparts. At the same time, it showed that they hold the power to boost household incomes when their potential is released from pervasive gender inequality. 

Read The Invisible Women Behind our Chocolate report (pdf)

Step forward, Edith, Thérese, Rosine and Léocadie – four inspirational women cocoa farmers from Côte d’Ivoire who led our 2020 Fairtrade Fortnight campaign with their own powerful stories.

The stories of Edith and Therese were shared by thousands, and seen by millions; online, and in communities up and down the country via our animated short film and our ‘storybombs’, beautifully designed by DorcasCreates (DorcasCreates Instagram channel). Meanwhile, Rosine and Leocadie shared their stories in person at events across the UK, alongside other leading women from the world of Fairtrade and food, meeting hundreds of supporters, businesses and politicians along the way.


Progress towards living incomes

We have set out to drive long-term structural change in the cocoa industry. But we know this will take years rather than a Fairtrade Fortnight or two. We have though, already seen some impactful and encouraging developments in the world of cocoa and Fairtrade since our campaign started in 2019, which gives much hope for the future and shows the importance of the Fairtrade movement in helping to drive public support for living incomes.

Fairtrade is the only certification scheme to focus on price. On 1 October 2019, we increased the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium each by 20 percent to increase the income of thoese farmers able to sell their cocoa on Fairtrade terms. Nearly sixty companies across the UK source Fairtrade cocoa and are now paying the new Minimum Price and Premium. Together with a 23 percent increase in Fairtrade cocoa sold in the UK in 2019, we are already lifting the incomes of tens of thousands of cocoa farmers.

There are big changes afoot in the cocoa industry too. The governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have announced they will introduce a new Living Income Differential (or mandatory extra payment on top of the market price) on all cocoa sales from their countries from October 2020. In his announcement to the cocoa industry, Ghanaian Vice-President Bawumia quoted Fairtrade’s living income research, urging them to make progress towards living incomes.

Read more on the announcement of a new Living Income Differential

Fairtrade welcomes the decision as an exciting step forward that aims to increase income for farmers and provide a source of hope that the deep structural change needed is not only possible, but on the horizon.

Still a way to go

After two years of our campaign with broad and vibrant action from Fairtrade supporters, we have seen an invaluable contribution to Fairtrade’s journey towards living incomes for cocoa farmers. But there is still a way to go and the world continues to change around us.

As we write this update, COVID-19, is bringing new challenges and uncertainty for cocoa farmers. According to the latest UN University forecasts, more than half a billion people could be pushed deeper into poverty by the effects of the global pandemic. The challenge that developing countries face now is perhaps bigger than ever before.

However, the Fairtrade Premium continues to play an important role for co-operatives responding urgently to the health and economic crises unfolding in already vulnerable communities. 

Read more about how Fairtrade is helping vulnerable communities facing COVID-19

Choosing Fairtrade chocolate continues to make a real difference right now and the choices you make when you shop still influence the decisions of businesses across the UK. Already in 2020, Waitrose & John Lewis have converted their confectionery range to contain 100 percent Fairtrade cocoa, and Lidl have launched their first own brand Fairtrade chocolate bar. We will continue our work to grow the benefits for farmers through the Fairtrade market and know that you will remain behind us as we carry on that mission.

We are operating in uncertain and challenging times but our fight for living incomes for cocoa farmers will go on and your support will be more vital than ever before, as global trade continues to change in ways we could only have imagined just a few months ago.

References

Find out more about our strategy to secure living incomes for cocoa farmers in our report: Craving a change in chocolate (pdf)

Read The Invisible Women Behind Our Chocolate report (pdf)

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