4 December, London: By focusing on living incomes for cocoa farmers, the Observer’s article published on 3rd December highlights a crucial issue. A living income is a fundamental human right and farmers who grow the products we enjoy in the UK cannot achieve the decent standard of living they and their families are entitled to without it.
The causes of unlawful child labour are multi-faceted, including discrimination and under-resourced social, educational and legal structures. Poverty however, remains the key driver. It puts farmers in the unthinkable position of choosing between putting food on the table and sending their children to school.
To achieve a decent standard of living, protect the environment and uphold human rights it will require all stakeholders to come together to make some significant changes. From companies, to governments, to certifications, to farming cooperatives and civil society – none of us can fix these problems in isolation. It is recognised that unlawful child labour is a global social problem that requires work and investment from the whole sector.
Fairtrade takes a holistic approach to tackling unlawful child labour – including by improving farmers’ incomes. We have been at the forefront of driving progress on living incomes in collaboration with farming communities and businesses, in cocoa and a range of other commodities. We do so by ensuring that farmer organisations receive a Fairtrade Minimum Price, and a Premium – an additional sum of money to invest as they choose – which funds social, environmental and economic benefits for their wider communities. Among major certifications schemes, Fairtrade sets the highest Minimum Price in the industry.
We work with both commercial partners and industry stakeholders to implement a range of ambitious programmes to support farmers to achieve a living income. Through these measures, we set out to tackle endemic poverty in farming communities, which the Observer article rightly identifies as the root cause of many of the challenges faced by farmers and their families, including unlawful child labour.
Earlier this year saw the launch of a new programme to support Fairtrade certified Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa cooperatives to strengthen prevention and remediation of child labour and forced labour.
We pursue systemic pathways to tackling poverty, of which price plays a part alongside access to finance, stronger cooperatives and longer term contracts to ensure the issue of unlawful child labour is mitigated.
Every Fairtrade certified chocolate bar bought by UK consumers helps take us a step closer to seeing farmers achieving more sustainable livelihoods. However, there is much more to do, so we remain committed to working with the entire sector to push for change.