Poverty in Cocoa

- Indranil GHOSH (ig@kko-international.com)

When we talk about various ills that afflict the cocoa sector, the roots can be traced back to one overarching issue: poverty. Why wouldn't growers invest in fertilizers? Who wouldn't want to train in modern agronomy methods? Would we refuse irrigation given the aléatoire nature of rainfall?

The reality is that most farmers don't have a choice. Subsistence farming on smallscale plots leave them with little or no room for manoeuvre. If poverty eradication is key to the malaise, let's crunch some numbers to generate measurable parameters.

  • 1.90 USD/day/head is the WB poverty line (https://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty).

  • 5.4 is an average family size in Ivory Coast (Michael Bauer Research).

  • Resultingly, 1,8 million CFA is the projected yearly income for an Ivorian family (1.90 USD * 5.4 * 25 days * 12 months = 3,078 USD * 583.36 being USD:CFA rate).

At current prices (i.e. 750 CFA/KG), the farmer would need to produce 2,4 tonnes per year in order to generate enough income to lift his family from poverty.

  • Let's peg per HA productivity in Ivory Coast at 500KG.

  • Thus, a farmer would need 4.8 HA to generate enough cash to eradicate poverty.

PS: The above scenario (1.8 million CFA) excludes the possibility to undertake investments (fertilizers, irrigation) or renew ageing biological inventory.

A recent program on France Televisions shows how the vicious cycle of poverty results in continuing child labour on cocoa plantations in Africa.

Le travail des enfants dans les plantations a-t-il disparu, comme s'y est engagée l'industrie du chocolat en 2001 ? "Envoyé spécial" a enquêté en Côte d'Ivoire, premier producteur mondial de cacao. En 2001, la lucrative industrie du chocolat s'engageait, sous la pression des ONG, à faire disparaître le travail des enfants dans les plantations où elle se fournit en cacao, et ce avant 2006.