Tackling the roots of poverty

Most of our raw materials come from countries in the Global South. Unfortunately, poverty is still widespread there, and consequently working conditions are not comparable with those in Switzerland. Chocolats Halba does not accept any form of human rights violation and is tackling the roots of issues such as child protection, fair wages for farmers and empowerment for women.

Chocolats Halba’s agroforestry project in Ecuador specifically supports women such as Margoth Borja.

Poverty is multifaceted: poor nutrition, inadequate education, a deficient sanitary infrastructure, insufficient medical care, discrimination against women, and hard child labor. Although the global community has been able to reduce absolute poverty in recent years, it is still endemic in countries of the Global South, particularly in the remote rural areas from which the raw materials for chocolate originate.

Tangible contribution

For instance, the deprivation experienced by female cocoa farmers in West Africa is a major problem. Their lack of education – many cannot read or write adequately – means they do not know their rights or are unable to assert them. They also receive less revenue on the market than men do for the same yield. This in turn has wide-ranging consequences for children, since women invest a large part of their income in the education and health of their sons and daughters.

Chocolats Halba wants to make a tangible contribution towards improving their precarious living conditions. Through contracts, we oblige our suppliers to observe local human rights and, in all our countries of origin, we only buy cocoa that meets Fairtrade guidelines. In 2010, the Fairtrade premiums alone that Chocolats Halba paid for cocoa beans and cocoa butter amounted to over CHF 6 million.

With the Fairtrade premiums, cooperatives finance social projects such as this school in Peru.

“Chocolats Halba’s commitment is hugely important for the producers of various raw materials such as cocoa and sugar. Using the premiums generated by Halba, they are able to invest in their operations and organizations. Chocolats Halba is also involved in specific projects, which is further boosting its positive impact.”

Fabian Waldmeier, Head of International Collaboration, Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland)

Fairtrade is strengthening farming organizations through democratically organized small farming cooperatives. The farmers decide among themselves what investments they want to make with the premium money and what projects they want to finance with it. For example, our Ghanaian partner cooperative Kuapa Kokoo has launched projects to promote women and protect children, for which Chocolats Halba is providing additional financial support.

Global pioneering achievement

However, we firmly believe that the greatest leverage lies in the comprehensive combating of poverty. In other words, in projects that tackle poverty not only at an economic level, but also at a social and environmental level. Halba has therefore launched agroforestry projects in collaboration with experts and cooperatives in all its cocoa-buying countries.

The mixed cultivation of cocoa and other indigenous fruit trees is not merely a boon for the environment, but also multiplies the income opportunities for cooperatives. The risk of harvests failing is reduced, and higher cocoa yields in the long term plus the additional sale of timber and fruit enable farmers to significantly increase their income.

In these global pioneering projects, Chocolats Halba is also specifically targeting women. They are being educated as farming trainers, which is giving them greater respect and expertise. They are also gaining opportunities to earn money in farming and associated fields, for example, by setting up and running tree nurseries and selling additional fruit and vegetable crops.

The costs of developing and implementing these agroforestry projects are being borne principally by Chocolats Halba and the Coop Sustainability Fund. Financial support is also being provided by governmental and private development organizations such as SECO, Helvetas and Swisscontact.