agroforst 1199


Kakaobohnen 350Cocoa beans after drying

Every day, the doors on our advent calendars reveal a tasty chocolate treat. In the run-up to Christmas, there is a boom in the chocolate business. But of course it is also extremely popular at any other time of year. The main region for cocoa production is in West Africa and the main exporter is Ivory Coast.

Whilst for us it is merely a sweet luxury, for many smallholders it constitutes their livelihood. Most cocoa farmers, however, live in dire poverty. There are various reasons for this, the principle one being the price of cocoa which is linked to the low, volatile prices paid on the global market. Besides this, however, the poor organisation of the farmers amongst themselves, precarious land rights, insufficient infrastructure and scanty access to the market and market information make the growers’ situation even more difficult. In many cases people – including children – work under inhumane conditions on the cocoa plantations.

Fair trade offers a good alternative. Fair prices and co-operative trading relationships allow the growers to improve their situation. The combination of organic cultivation and fair trade and the technical support of individual farmers allow many of the growers to free themselves from extreme price fluctuations and non-participatory trading structures. Avoidance of synthetic chemical sprays furthermore makes them independent of agrochemical conglomerates. Long-term contracts give the cocoa farmers greater planning security. So far, organic cocoa cultivation has played only a secondary role in West Africa. Right now Naturland and GEPA are co-operating on a project to provide advisory services to a co-operative in Cameroon to assist with conversion to organic agriculture.

By tradition, organic cultivation is more widespread in South and Central America. For example, Cooproagro, a smallholders’ co-operative in the Dominican Republic, produces organic cocoa to the Naturland standards for GEPA, among others. They invest the fair-trade bonus in infrastructure, extending the road network, providing villages with electricity, building club houses, schools and school canteens. There is no trace of exploitative child labour here. The members have access to loans or credit at low rates of interest.

Naturland requires coffee to be cultivated within agro forestry systems with a wide variety of shade trees, including timber and fruit trees. This diverse system provides the shade which cocoa plants require, stabilises the water balance and protects the soil from erosion. Besides this, the range of trees under which they are grown provides citrus fruit, bananas, avocados and coconuts for consumption by the farmers and their families or for sale on the local market, thus improving the smallholders’ income.

Organic fair-trade chocolate is the better alternative, not just during the festive season, for those who respect nature and their fellow man.


More about cocoa farming:

Südwind-Institut_Cocoa Barometer 2015 (only in german)

Naturland News International II_2014