My first day in Abidjan was a packed and productive. A number of the groups representing civil society and farmer organizations got together to discuss our desired outcomes for the week.
The World Cocoa Conference, billed as the “First and Only Global Cocoa Forum“, is one of the first attempts of the various stakeholders in the cocoa supply chain to come together and address some of the pressing long-term issues that effect the cocoa sector. The goal of this conference is to create sustainable cocoa economy. While sustainability is something that can be interpreted in various ways, it seems that almost everyone at this conference agrees that if none of the cocoa farmers would wish the same vocation for their children, and indeed, none of the children in West Africa want to be farmers, than the industry is not sustainable.
For our group, the key to sustainability includes decent work and pay for all farmers and farm workers who supply the most critical component of chocolate bars worldwide: cocoa.
At the end of the conference, all participants will be asked to sign on to the “Abidjan Declaration” for a sustainable cocoa economy. We hope that it is a declaration that pushes strongly for human rights, living wages, and environmental protections, especially regarding climate change and it’s threat to cocoa growing communities. And, that it pushes strongly and clearly for all parties in the sector to do their part to eliminate child labor.
We are working hard to influence the discussions this week so that the concerns of civil society and farmer organization are represented in the declaration.