Working together for greater sustainability in cocoa production

02.01.2019 - Article

Christmas time is chocolate time. An initiative bringing together politicians, the private sector and civil society is campaigning to make the cocoa industry sustainable, writes the German development agency GIZ.

Most cocoa is grown by small farmers in West Africa.
Most cocoa is grown by small farmers in West Africa.© GIZ

Chocolate is always popular but particularly so during the run-up to Christmas, whether in the form of chocolate bars, sweets or Santa Claus figures. Germany manufactured 1.1 million tonnes of chocolate products in 2017 alone, according to sector experts. That makes it the second largest cocoa importer in the world, purchasing more than 10 percent of the global cocoa harvest.

Most cocoa is grown by small farmers in West Africa, many of whom earn nowhere near a living wage from their crops. Inadequate nutrition and child labour are common in many areas. And growing cocoa can damage the environment as a result, for example, of deforestation.

An initiative launched in 2012 aims to improve the situation. The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO) now has over 70 members, including the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ), the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the cocoa industry, food companies and non-governmental organisations. The aim of the initiative is to improve the lives of cocoa farmers, conserve natural resources and increase the proportion of sustainably produced cocoa sold on the German market. The GIZ has been commissioned to coordinate the work of this multi-stakeholder initiative.

The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa is implementing the principle of “shared responsibility” set out in the 2030 Agenda. This approach sees global cooperation as a shared responsibility for all key stakeholders: Not only governments, but also, for example, companies, civil society groups and academia should be involved and contribute to sustainable development. This creates new forms of cooperation and partnerships of equals.

As part of its PRO-PLANTEURS project in Côte d’Ivoire, GISCO works to professionalise cocoa farming and improve the lives of 20,000 producers and their cooperatives. The project runs training courses which specifically target young people and women. The training develops business skills, disseminates good practice in cocoa-growing and trains participants in agricultural diversification, better nutrition and healthcare.

Between them, the members of GISCO have run 116 projects in 32 countries. The impact on the market is evident: more than half the chocolate products sold in Germany are now made with certified cocoa. Between 2011 and 2017, the proportion of the total market accounted for by certified cocoa rose from three percent to 55 percent – and to 60 percent in the case of GISCO members.


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