More than 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. In West Africa, cocoa is grown on small family farms with an average size of 3 to 4 hectares. The vast majority of cocoa farms are not owned by the companies that make chocolate or supply cocoa. It has therefore been important to work with governments in West Africa, experts in labor standards and the communities themselves to help create programs that drive improved labor standards.
Together with the Governments and our partners, and in line with Harkin-Engel Protocol commitments, we have developed a “public certification” process in the cocoa farming sector.
Through an ongoing process of data collection, reporting, remediation and independent verification, certification improves labor practices in the cocoa farming communities of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
How the Public Certification Process Works
The Public Certification process has been discussed at length in public forums and is defined as a transparent, credible and progressive process that reports, on a country-to-country basis, the incidence of the worst forms of child labor (WFCL) and forced adult labor (FAL) in a producing country’s cocoa sector as a whole and on progress in reducing this incidence, with the goal of eliminating WFCL and FAL from the sector.
Public certification is only part of the solution to this complex issue. It’s important to understand exactly what public certification can achieve.
Public certification accomplishes the following:
- Improves labor practices on cocoa by highlighting problem issues and focusing resources to address them
- Offers a candid, detailed assessment of labor conditions (and related issues) in cocoa farming communities
- Informs, guides and measures the success of efforts to help children and adults in cocoa farming communities and to improve farm labor practices
- Involves West African governments who have sovereign control over the territory where the farms are located – and other organizations in driving change at the farm level
Public certification does not:
- Certify individual bags of beans or farms
- Generate a label or “seal of approval”
- Certify a country’s cocoa sector as having a “clean bill of health”
- Punish cocoa farmers or divide farming communities
- “Monitor” individual (or every) cocoa farm on a constant basis
Process vs. Product Certification
Public and Private Certification works towards the goal of bringing about real and lasting change in labor practices in the cocoa sector of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
Public Certification developed under the Protocol is a process certification that incorporates a continuous improvement model and includes a four-step process of data collection, public reporting of data collection results, remediation, and independent verification. It is a certification process intended to drive broad scale change across the entire cocoa sector.
Private certification operates as a commercially competitive proposition. Individual private certification schemes are distinguished by a product label. Companies partner with product certifiers based on their respective needs and in their supply chains where appropriate. For reasons concerned with antitrust, industry cannot, as some have suggested, come together to “mainstream” their collective actions in highly competitive commercial activity such as product certification.
A key component of the certification approach called for under the Harkin and Engel Protocol is a third party, independent verification that information presented by the certification process would be credible, transparent and available to the public.
In December 2007, while representative farm level surveys were being carried out in the world’s two major cocoa-producing countries (Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana), a unique multi-stakeholder Board of experts was convened to launch the verification process.
Composed of experts from a diversity of Sectors (NGO, industry, government), the Board was tasked with identifying a reliable third party verifier to assess credibility and replicability of the surveys conducted and results found. Thereafter the Board’s mission would be to ensure timely and transparent delivery of verification results to interested parties.
Two organizations were selected by the Board after a thorough, publicized and transparent selection process:
- Fafo AIS, a Norwegian-based non-profit with considerable expertise in data collection and analysis
- Khulisa Management Services, a South African firm specializing in monitoring and evaluation
In the course of 2008 and 2009 both organizations worked together to assess the survey data collected in each country in terms of suitability of research objectives and outcomes; suitability of survey methodologies; data quality assessment and assessment of results.
In order to test validity and credibility of the original survey results, an additional representative sample survey was also conducted.
Verification reports were issued in the course of 2009, which provided preliminary findings and offered recommendations for the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to review statistical errors found and consider additional data treatment and collection techniques to improve data reporting and strengthen any future surveys.
Based on the acknowledgments and corrections received from the governments of both countries, in 2010 the ICVB released final verification reports.
Rainforest Alliance: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture.cfm?id=cocoa
Fairtrade USA: http://www.fairtradeusa.org/
Fairtrade UK: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/
Fairtrade International: http://www.fairtrade.net/home.html