Swiss cocoa platform marks fifth anniversary with call for greater farmer support

A meeting of marking the fifth anniversary of the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa has examined key progress over five years targeting sustainability goals within the sector’s supply chains, centred on exploring solutions to support key farming communities, writes Neill Barston.

According to the organisation, more than 70 of its 74 members – consisting of chocolate manufacturers, raw materials traders and retailers, spoke in favour of a call for higher pay for agricultural workers to gain enhanced wages, which is seen as central to major ongoing issues within the sector.

The platform acknowledged that while some gains had been made, there was ‘still much work ahead’ as it marked five years of the initiative between business, NGOs, civil society and the federal government.

In an exchange with guests from the countries of origin of cocoa, the more than 70 members of the association spoke out in favour of further strengthening cooperation and successively expanding efforts to improve the incomes of cocoa farmers and for climate protection. The annual meeting of the Cocoa Platform, which took place today at the Kulturhof Schloss Köniz, allowed for an interim assessment of the multi-stakeholder initiative launched five years ago.


pic: Swiss Cocoa Platform

Among its core talking points, was the expansion of the group from 41 to 74 members, the development of 14 innovative partnership projects and the increase in sustainable imports from 50 to 71 per cent since 2017 are evidence of a dynamic network that is revitalising cooperation between its members.

As members and guess from Ghana and Peru noted, drives to deliver tangible measures on child labour, climate and biodiversity required even further joint moves and collaboration within and outside its organisation – particularly with regard to working with origin governments in West Africa – which supplies two thirds of the cocoa for the chocolate confectionery sector.

Significantly, the group noted that within this critical region for the industry, cocoa farmers were still a long way from earning a living – with many earning little or no more than $1 a day, meaning they remain locked in a spiral of poverty.

The platform also said that the effects of climate change are also omnipresent, with solutions requiring not only to support individual farming families but must also aim to improve the entire environment in the countries of origin. This can only succeed if the perspective of the cocoa farmers is understood and taken into account in the solutions. At today’s Annual General Meeting, several well-known personalities from the partner countries Ghana and Peru took part in the discussions with the Swiss network.

Greater co-operation

Nelson Adubofour, who as General Secretary of the Fairtrade partner cooperative Kuapa Kokoo represents 100,000 farmers in Ghana, put it in a nutshell: “We are looking for cooperation on equal footing.”

“To achieve this, it is important that we see the farmers not just as recipients of aid, but as partners in the search for and implementation of appropriate solutions in the fight against poverty, climate change and child labour.”

He pointed to hopeful examples such as the dynamic agroforestry approach within the SANKOFA project, which was developed alongside farmers and is now being applied more and more widely within the cooperative. Stakeholders take stock The multi-stakeholder initiative thrives on the interaction and dialogue between the stakeholder groups.

“Even if the perspectives and interests differ, the representatives from business, civil society and the federal government see a clear added value in the platform with a roadmap that makes a concrete contribution to the UN Development Agenda 2030,” sums up Filippo Veglio, who has been acting as the independent president of the association for two years.

Urs Furrer, director of the industry association Chocosuisse, commented on behalf of the companies: “Today, Swiss companies are doing a lot in the area of sustainability. But the problems in the countries of origin exceed our possibilities for intervention. This is where the Cocoa Platform offers concrete added value. In cooperation with the various partners, the commitments of our companies can be strengthened.”

Since the founding of the platform, the Swiss Confederation, through the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, has also played an important role in the platform’s work. Ambassador Dominique Paravicini, the Federal Council’s Delegate for Trade Agreements, added: “We see our role in strengthening cooperation among the actors and facilitating additional investments in poverty reduction and climate protection. The experience of the start-up phase gives cause for optimism. Together with the private sector, SECO was able to implement 14 projects in a total of eight countries with a budget of CHF 30 million, reaching around 90,000 farmers.

After the summer break, a future programme will build on the positive experiences and successively expand investments in the countries of origin by increasingly promoting projects in which several members join forces.

The NGO sector is also part of the partnership approach. Kathrin Amacker, President of the Foundation Board of Fairtrade Max Havelaar and keynote speaker at the event concluded: “Today we can celebrate an initiative that has developed into a true multi-stakeholder platform of the Swiss cocoa sector. A platform that provides space for discussion, collaboration and innovation.

“However, critical reflections should not be neglected in the future. In view of the major challenges in the value chain, the platform still needs to develop further in this respect.”

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