In a chocolate industry with high numbers of low-paid women, gender equality and poverty reduction go hand in hand.

The Women’s School of Leadership in Cote d'Ivoire was set up in 2017 as a joint-funded project between Fairtrade, the Co-op and catering group Compass. It aims to empower women cocoa farmers in West Africa to become business owners, members of farming groups and leaders in their communities. Image courtesy of Fairtrade Foundation

We are a nation of chocoholics. Last year the average person in the UK consumed 8.4 kilos of chocolate—more per person than any other country on Earth.

Chocolate is big business, generating £4 billion each year in the UK alone, and employing over six million people globally. But the reality is that for those involved in producing it, the UK’s daily treat still offers them few prospects beyond a life of poverty.

The typical cocoa farmer earns just 74p a day. For every tonne of cocoa sold, farmers usually receive less than 7% of the value. That’s compared to the 35% captured by manufacturers and 44% by retailers. Women receive an even worse deal. Despite making up a significant proportion of the cocoa production industry, they, on average, earn less than a quarter of the income generated. Global gender inequality also means that women face barriers in securing legal rights to land, getting training and even accessing co-operative membership.

‘She Deserves’

The Fairtrade Foundation’s new campaign, ‘She Deserves’, aims to tackle these problems by calling for a living income for cocoa producers, particularly women. A living income should cover the cost of food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transport and all other essential needs, empowering farmers to rise out of poverty and thrive in their industry. In West Africa, the average cocoa farmer needs to earn £1.86 a day to achieve this living income.

The aim is to pay all cocoa farmers a living income by 2030, but governments, retailers and consumers all need to work together to make this a reality.

The UK is perfectly placed to take the lead on this issue. Amidst Brexit negotiations, the Government should ensure that poverty reduction and the need for a living income are priorities for any future trade agreements.

What can I do?

This campaign comes as part of Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 25th February to 10th March. This year, campaigns will focus on cocoa and will tell the stories of the industry’s women. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Show your support for the campaigns on social media, using the hashtags #SheDeserves and #FairtradeFortnight
  • Put on a Fairtrade Fortnight event, bringing friends or colleagues together to raise awareness and raise some money. Find some tips and resources for hosting Fairtrade events here
  • Sign the Fairtrade Foundation’s petition, calling on the Government to ensure that global living incomes come at the top of their international priorities Sign the petition

And finally, next time you fancy a chocolate bar, make it Fairtrade.