How The Chocolate Industry Holds Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers Hostage

Photo credit: Charisse Kenion

Ghanian cocoa farmers do not make a living wage and succumb to poverty at the hands of the chocolate industry. Multinational companies hold farmers hostage by preventing them from diversifying their crops.

Farmers routinely diversify their crops based on physical and financial resources. For instance, if suitable land to produce a particular crop becomes limited, the farmer plants another crop that is more suited for the conditions. Farmers also diversify their crops, if they cannot fetch a desirable price for their crop.

Tropical forestland is needed to grow cocoa. It’s in limited supply. Therefore, farmers want to diversify their land to feed and provide for their families — basically to survive.

Last May I published, The Unfortunate Casualty of The World’s Love For Chocolate, which talks about how clearing for cocoa is the leading cause of deforestation in Ghana. Ghana is losing its rainforest faster than any other country in the world.

This is a threat to the profits of multinational chocolate companies. They can no longer slash and burn forests to make way for more cocoa farms, but they insist on spending money on cocoa farming to the detriment of the cocoa farmer.

Over time, as the land becomes exhausted, the farmer must rework the land. This makes it costlier for the farmer to cultivate the land. It’s estimated that the cost of maintaining an exhausted farm is double the customary costs.

Not only does the cocoa farmer suffer, but workers and end users suffer. Continued use of exhausted land requires more labor. Hence, the use of child labor increases. Fertilizer and pesticide use also increases to aid exhausted farmland. Therefore, the end user is potentially subjected to harmful chemicals.

Everyone suffers except the chocolate industry. They generate over $80 Billion a year. Supplying chocolate to wealthy countries should not come at the cost of the farmer’s future nor precious tropical forestland.

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