Cassandra U. (from the Butcher Shop
at the Kootenay Co-op)
What Organic Farming Practices and FairTrade Mean
to the Cocoa Industry and Me
Six million farmers worldwide produce 35 million tons of cocoa annually, with the global demand suspected to rise by 30 percent (4.5 million) by 2020; but with low employment rates among cocoa farms, we are facing the potential of a global shortage.
Cocoa trees thrive in warm, rainy environments near the equator, and can survive as long as 25 years. They need constant protection from wind, sun, pests and disease the entire time and are hard work with few benefits, contributing to the lower interest amongst younger generations. In 2016, cocoa sales were projected to reach 98.3 billion, yet cocoa farmers only see between 3.5 and 6.4 percent of the final value of a chocolate bar. That means that out of a $3.00 chocolate bar a farmer would receive 0.10 to 0.21 cents. In the 1980’s farmers were making roughly 0.48 cents (or sixteen percent) per chocolate bar. Adjusted at the rate of inflation from 1985 that would be $1.11 cents per chocolate bar. That means that while the retailers and manufacturers profit sales increase, we are paying farmers less than we did 33 years ago.
By supporting Fairtrade you are allowing people like the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, a small co-op in Ghana, to build things like wells for drinking water, public toilets and a mobile clinic to visit the members’ villages. Fairtrade also provides training and support to enable farmers to strengthen their business on their own.
The majority of farmers (60.5 percent) have only a basic education so creating a sustainable business is vital to allow them to continuously provide for their families. Options include organic farming practices such as using green manure, compost manure, bone mean for fertilizers and crop rotating or companion planting. These are all excellent ways to give farmers autonomy, self-sufficiency, food security, food safety and most importantly their health.
Synthetic fertilizers can severely deplete the nutritional value of food, as well as kill young children and cause severe health issues if someone has come into direct contact. Nitrogen is essentially a plant steroid, Ammonia is toxic to humans, Nitrates, when converted to Nitrites in your body can cause hemoglobin’s which can restrict the air in your blood. When using harsh chemicals here in Canada we have safety gear such as masks, gloves and suits in order to keep us safe yet the majority of small farms (90% of cocoa farmers) cannot afford the same precautions we are fortunate enough to take.
Both fair trade and organic farming are important to me because all people deserve to live with fair pay, access to healthcare and clean water. Farmers are essential to our survival as a species and we don’t pay them enough. They provide so much for so little and as a society we tend to forget that. I know I personally would rather provide a little girl or boy with access to clean water, a full belly and a healthy life than to give the CEO of a multimillion dollar company their fourth summer home.
Check out the other staff essays here: