German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa agrees goals to support key farming suppliers

The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (Gisco) has agreed its latest objectives to help deliver a living income for key supply chain farming communities in Africa.

Consisting of the German Federal government alongside civic organisations, industry and retail groups, the joint venture has outlined twelve key areas of focus.

This framework for action for a sustainable cocoa sector includes contributing to a living income for cocoa farming households, actions against deforestation, and compliance human rights within the cocoa supply chain.

Federal minister Dr. Gerd Müller praised the multi-stakeholder initiative, of which the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) also is a member, for its pioneering role. An “improved, fair cocoa cultivation” is a high ranking topic of his ministry.

The long-term goal is 100 percent sustainability, also in other sectors. “If a voluntary commitment does not help, we must set legal regulations,” Federal Minister Müller said in a brief address to the members of Gisco and its guests. Müller also promised to support the dialogue with the governments of the producing countries.

The urgency of a living income and of better living conditions for cocoa farming families formed the thematic framework of the General Meeting of Gisco. “The cocoa sector will not be sustainable as long as farmers are unable to earn a living,” emphasised board chair Wolf Kropp-Büttner. Around 100 members and guests took part in the public event.

These included the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO), Michel Arrion, and representatives of other multi-stakeholder initiatives, politics and science.

“Four out of five cocoa farming families do not earn a living income,” Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), said in her opening speech. Strategies and solutions for a living income must include dialogue with producer countries and their support reforms. The actors along the supply chain should also have to comply with their human rights duty of care.

“We will see where binding regulations are needed,” Flachsbarth said. Dr. Katharina Böttcher, Ministerial Director at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), called the 10-point plan for a sustainable cocoa sector, of both ministries, presented at the beginning of the year a “signal for more fairness along the entire value chain – from the cocoa fields to the consumer”. Implementation must include monitoring of the measures. Addressing the producing countries, those have to “ensure that existing laws, in particular the ban on child labor, are implemented”, Böttcher said.

The organisation said that considerable hopes surrounded the appointment of Michel Arrion, the new executive director of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO). It is his goal to make ICCO more responsive to pressing issues such as poverty and deforestation. Arrion reportedly also wants to promote the necessary dialogue between the producer and consumer countries that are members of ICCO.

Arrion is said to see multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO) and similar initiatives like in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands as valuable approaches, which should be built upon to intensify their dialogue with cocoa-producing countries.

A sustainable cocoa sector can only be achieved through joint efforts. GISCO already gained four new members in 2019 and has grown to 76 members: companies, civil society organisations and the German government represented by the two federal ministries, the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). One of the goals of GISCO is to increase the proportion of cocoa in confectionery sold in Germany sourced from certified cultivation in accordance with sustainability standards to 85 percent by the year 2025. Currently, 65% of the cocoa already comes from certified cultivation, based on the members of GISCO (reference year 2018).

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