Chocolate with an Impact

There is merit to the ways both the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company and Guittard Chocolate Company approach chocolate production. For its part, Omanhene sees itself as going “Beyond Fair Trade,”[1] and in its approach, takes into account things such as farmer’s wages, environmental impact, and the use of children as laborers. Guittard, a Fair Trade company, also addresses issues such as these. I contend that while Omanhene’s approach is effective in some regards, Guittard’s is more effective in undermining child slavery.

The terms “global south” and “global north” are classifications for kinds of countries, and such classifications are relevant to discussions of the concept of Fair Trade. Thomas Erikson states that “at a very general level, the Global North is associated with stable state organization, an economy largely under (state) control and – accordingly – a dominant formal sector,” and that “the recipients of foreign aid… belong to the Global South.”[2] As Ndongo Sylla recounts, the concept of “Fair Trade appeared as a specific response to the development challenge in the South. It refers to a form of solidarity approach that aims to ensure decent income for producers and workers of the South,” as it pertains to the trade they engage in with the Global North.[3] One aspect of Fair Trade is that the producer organizations involved are arranged as “associations” or “cooperatives,” mainly because the amounts of goods produced on family farms are too small to be exported.[4]

The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company used to be fair trade certified, but due to disagreements that its founder, Steven Wallace, has with certain aspects of Fair Trade certification, the company has since foregone this practice. One reason for Omanhene’s departure has to do with the fair trade requirement that certified companies buy cocoa beans only from farmer cooperatives. In Ghana, where the company purchases its cocoa, most of the family-owned cocoa farms are not part of such cooperatives, and Omanhene deems it unjust to force these farmers to join one. Wallace also accuses some Fair Trade certification agencies of putting great emphasis on the compensation given to farmer cooperatives, but not putting enough priority on other issues, such as child labor. Moreover, regarding farmer incomes, Omanhene seeks to help Ghanaian farmers obtain revenues not only from raw cocoa beans, but also from the things that the cocoa is used to make (such as chocolate), which are worth more than the raw beans are themselves. Such a goal, at least in Wallace’s view, is not emphasized by Fair Trade. As result of disagreements such as these, Omanhene now engages in business practices that its founder describes as ‘beyond fair trade’.[5]

In his description of Fair Trade’s founders, Ndongo Sylla recounts that they felt that “international aid creates passivity and dependency among beneficiary populations.”[6] Sylla classifies their ideas as reminiscent of the “Trade not Aid” slogan of another, similar movement.[7] Wallace of Omanhene Cocoa seems to echo this aversion to aid, holding that his company is “not a charity.”[8] Moreover, Wallace seems to call into question Fair Trade’s ability to be more than just a charity. He classifies the “ ‘fair trade’ ” price given to cooperatives as a “unilateral subsidy,” which relies on the “charitable intent” of buyers willing to pay this extra amount, and he questions the ability of such a system to continue over time.[9]

One of the issues regarding cocoa production, which Omanhene seems committed to rectifying, is the need to empower communities in which cocoa beans are produced. Partly with the help of wages earned as a result of their partnership with Omanhene, some cocoa farmers in Ghana have been able to send their children to private school.[10] Additionally, however, Omanhene uses cocoa beans that are entirely from Ghana, and also manufactures its chocolate in Ghana. This policy, according to founder Steven Wallace, allows Ghanaians to “reap the added value from the processing of their beans into chocolate.”[11] He articulates that the processing of cocoa “constitutes the most significant portion of wealth in the cocoa value chain, ” and so, manufacturing chocolate in Ghana helps both the cocoa farmers and the factory workers in Ghana that turn the beans into chocolate.[12] The company also provides its factory workers with benefits such as “free medical care for themselves and their families, free meals at the factory, free uniforms, free transportation to work and subsidized housing.” Moreover, all line workers hold equity shares in the factory.[13]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-dm0TSmpk

The above video discusses one of the issues with cocoa farming in the Ivory Coast. We see that farmers don’t get compensated enough, and moreover, can’t afford fertilizers that would increase their income. Although the government has fixed the price of cocoa in order to improve the fortunes of farmers, buyers pay it no heed. The video pretty clearly promotes Fair Trade as a way of improving the outcomes for cocoa farmers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHDxy04QPqM

This video depicts another pertinent issue regarding farming on the Ivory Coast– the use of child slavery.

As Orla Ryan recounts, The International Labour Convention 182 puts slavery and hazardous work under its classification of the worst forms of child labor. Hazardous labor on cocoa plantations could include the use of dangerous machinery, equipment or tools, the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals. Research in the past has shown that, although there may be some child slave labor used on the Ivory Coast, it is much more often “family labor,” or labor by children for parents or other relatives. Still, it has been estimated that many children (slaves or otherwise) labor on cocoa farms, and that the work they do is often hazardous.[14]

The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company professes to ensure that its cocoa is not harvested with the use of child slavery by not sourcing any of it from places like the Ivory Coast, where such labor has been reported.[15] As previously stated, Omanhene’s cocoa beans are entirely from Ghana, where Omanhene has claimed that “there has been no documented use of child slave labor.”[16] To its credit, Omanhene cites a study conducted by the government of Ghana on Child Labour Practices, the early results of which show that “the overwhelming majority of children [in Ghana] live on farms owned by a close family member… and that over 90% of children on cocoa farms attend school on a regular basis,” which makes child slavery unlikely.[17]

The Guittard Chocolate Company is another company that prides itself on the way it treats the farmers that grow its cocoa. The premiums that Guittard has given farmers have gone toward projects aimed at helping communities. For example, their website states that the Oro Verde cooperative has been able to use such premiums to pay for “ ‘health days,’ ” in which doctors and dentists go to communities and give free medical advice and medication to members of the cooperative. Moreover, the CONACADO cooperative has used premiums to construct an aqueduct and piping system that has brought water to hundreds of families. Regarding education, Guittard’s website mentions a village in the Ivory Coast in which a lack of schools created a burden for children that had to walk long distances just to attend. Thanks to premiums, the CORES cooperative was able to build a school, and many of its attendees are the children of cocoa farmers. Regarding child labor, Guittard is a member of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), which seeks to ensure the protection of children in communities where cocoa is farmed.[18]

The company’s mention of educational opportunities created in the Ivory Coast calls Omanhene’s approach, which is not to source from the region, into question. By working with cocoa farmers on the Ivory Coast, Guittard allows the country to benefit from the additional premiums they provide. These premiums have been used, in part at least, to benefit the nation’s children by offering them greater educational opportunity. It stands to reason that a child without the opportunity to attend school will be more likely to fall victim to child slavery. Taking a hard stance against working with the Ivory Coast means that its cocoa farmers, and their children, are unable to benefit from Fair Trade (or “Beyond Fair Trade”) practices.

https://twitter.com/GuittardChoco/status/832229688214962177/photo/1

Women’s empowerment has been identified as another crucial aspect of improving the outcomes of cocoa farming families. The above image depicts a female cocoa farmer, and can be found on Guittard Chocolates’ Twitter page. The hash tag #GloCo2017 refers to the Global Conference on Women in Cocoa, which was held on February 16-17, 2017, in Accra, Ghana.[19]

Guittard Chocolate has made a point of counteracting gender inequality in the cocoa market. As its website states, women oftentimes aren’t given access to resources and training for cocoa farmers. This, in addition to negatively affecting women, reduces the income of families as a whole. The company is part of the World Cocoa Foundation’s Cocoa Livelihood Program, through which women are receiving skills that will make them better farmers, which increases their production of cocoa and other food crops. This allows them to bring in more income for themselves.[20]

Guittard, in the aforementioned twitter post, increases public visibility of those involved in the making of chocolate, and also seems to wish to increase awareness regarding the struggles such individuals face. The caption of the tweet reads “The demands on a female cocoa farmer are many,” while the female depicted simultaneously appears to be sorting cocoa beans and carrying a child on her back. However, some might disagree with this kind of imagery. Kristy Leissle speaks of advertisements made by Divine Chocolate, which show female cocoa farmers in Ghana. In these advertisements, women are depicted as “owners of the chocolate company,” as opposed to “narratives that cast Africa as… in an eternal developmental lag.”[21] Although the woman in Guittard’s photo certainly seems happy, there is a stark contrast between this depiction and those used in the Divine chocolate ads.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYzl_YwTULk

Environmental sustainability is another pertinent issue as it pertains to cocoa farming. The above video is from Equal Exchange, another company that attempts to source cocoa responsibly. In the video, the company describes its commitment to fighting the effects of climate change, and support of “farm level” solutions. They also elucidate that farmer cooperatives that are supported by Fair Trade are able to share the knowledge of sustainable farming practices amongst one another.

Both Omanhene and Guittard address the environmental concerns present in cocoa farming. As previously alluded, Omanhene “manufactur[es] locally” in Ghana. This reduces the negative environmental impact that would otherwise result from having to transport cocoa beans over large distances to be processed.[22] The Guittard Chocolate Company’s practice of using shade-grown cacao both protects the cacao pods from receiving too much direct sunlight, and helps to protect the jungle environment around the crops.[23] Moreover, the Cocoa of Excellence program, with which Guittard is a partner, increases the capability of countries with cocoa farmers to protect the quality and diversity of the crop.[24]

Guittard and Omanhene seem to represent slightly different philosophies on ethical cocoa sourcing. While Guittard is a Fair Trade member willing to work with farmers in the Ivory Coast, Omanhene has discontinued Fair Trade membership due to ideological issues with the movement, and also, as a matter of policy, refuses to do work in places such as the Ivory Coast. As to which brand has the more effective policies, both seem to be making efforts, in several ways, to improve the lots of the workers that farm the cocoa used to produce their chocolate. However, it is unclear how Omanhene’s policy of not working with the Ivory Coast actually works to counteract the extant child slavery in the nation. In addition, by isolating itself from the Ivory Coast, Omanhene deprives these farmers of the wages and benefits that it, as a company, can help provide. Guittard, it seems, by its involvement in the region, is more poised to make an impact against child slavery.

[1] Steven Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017, http://www.omanhene.com/about-omanhene-chocolate-cocoa/beyond-fair-trade/.

[2] Thomas Hylland Eriksen, “What’s Wrong with the Global North and the Global South?” from Concepts of the Global South. Global South Studies Center Cologne, January 2015. Accessed May 6, 2017, http://gssc.uni-koeln.de/node/451.

[3] Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, trans. David Clément Leye. Athens, Ohio. Ohio University Press: 2014., p. 64.

[4] Ibid., 77-78.

[5] Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017, http://www.omanhene.com/about-omanhene-chocolate-cocoa/beyond-fair-trade/.

[6] Roozen, Nico and van der Hoff, Frans (2002) L’Aventure du Commerce

équitable: une alternative à la mondialisation [The Fair Trade Journey: An

Alternative to Globalization], cited in Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich., p.73.

[7] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich., p.73.

[8] Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017, http://www.omanhene.com/about-omanhene-chocolate-cocoa/beyond-fair-trade/.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Steven Wallace, “The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company’s Communication on Progress 2014: The United Nations Global Compact.” Prepared on March 24, 2015. Accessed May 6, 2017, http://www.omanhene.com/wp-content/uploads/Global-Compact-COP-2014.pdf, title page.

[11] Ibid., 9.

[12] Ibid., 9.

[13] Ibid., 10.

[14] Orla Ryan, Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. New York, NY. Zed Books Ltd: 2011., p.47-48.

[15] Wallace, “The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company’s Communication on Progress 2014: The United Nations Global Compact,” p.8.

[16] Ibid., 8.

[17] Ibid., 7.

[18] Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017, https://www.guittard.com/cultivate-better/honorable-sourcing.

[19]World Cocoa Foundation. “WCF January & February 2017” Accessed May 7, 2017, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/wcf-january-february-2017/.

[20] Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017, https://www.guittard.com/cultivate-better/honorable-sourcing.

[21] Kristy Leissle, “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139. Routledge: 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194, p. 121.

[22] Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017, http://www.omanhene.com/about-omanhene-chocolate-cocoa/beyond-fair-trade/.

[23] Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017, https://www.guittard.com/cultivate-better/honorable-sourcing.

[24] Ibid.

Bibliography:

Cocoa of Excellence. Organization, Partners & Sponsors.” Accessed May 8, 2017. http://www.cocoaofexcellence.org/about-us/organizers-partners-sponsors/

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. “What’s Wrong with the Global North and the Global South?” from Concepts of the Global South. Global South Studies Center Cologne, January 2015. Accessed May 8, 2017. http://gssc.uni-koeln.de/node/451.

Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017. https://www.guittard.com/cultivate-better/honorable-sourcing.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139. Routledge: 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. New York, NY. Zed Books Ltd: 2011.

“Slave Free Chocolate.” Last modified January 19, 2009. Accessed May 5, 2009. http://vision.ucsd.edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/main.html.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Translated by David Clément Leye. Athens, Ohio. Ohio University Press: 2014.

Wallace, Steven. “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017. http://www.omanhene.com/about-omanhene-chocolate-cocoa/beyond-fair-trade/.

Wallace, Steven. “The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company’s Communication on Progress 2014: The United Nations Global Compact.” Prepared on March 24, 2015. Accessed May 6, 2017. http://www.omanhene.com/wp-content/uploads/Global-Compact-COP-2014.pdf,

World Cocoa Foundation. “WCF January & February 2017” Accessed May 7, 2017. http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/wcf-january-february-2017/.

Media Sources:

  1. Ivory Coast’s bittersweet cocoa industry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-dm0TSmpk
  2. Chocolate Child Slaves- CNN. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHDxy04QPqM
  3. https://twitter.com/GuittardChoco/status/832229688214962177/photo/1
  4. Equal Exchange: Fair Trade & Our Environment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYzl_YwTULk
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