Most cocoa farms are small, no bigger than a couple of football pitches. With a limited number of trees and low cocoa prices, it's hard for farmers to earn enough to live on. That's even with support from governments and additional premiums, such as Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certification.
When farmers can't afford to send their kids to school, the risk of child labour on cocoa farms greatly increases. At the same time women, who are typically responsible for childcare and household expenses, often have no direct income of their own and aren’t empowered to make choices.
The problem isn't straightforward - and to put it frankly, there isn't one solution that will solve it. There are many factors involved, and since 2020 Nestlé has been working with 1,000 farmers in Côte d'Ivoire to look at each of these factors in turn. The findings of this pilot scheme have shaped the income accelerator programme that Nestlé is launching today.
The income accelerator programme
To explain the programme in more detail, let's start with farmer income. There are two ways in which the programme will help farmers to move towards a living income. First, they will be rewarded for good agricultural practices, such as pruning trees, which can significantly improve crop productivity. Second, farmers will receive incentives to establish additional sources of income - which could include growing other crops, keeping livestock, beekeeping or processing cassava.
Ensuring children have the chance to learn and grow in a safe and healthy environment is paramount, and Nestlé will provide financial incentives for enrolling all children aged between 6 and 16 in school. Meanwhile, half the payments made to farmers will go directly to their spouses, empowering women by giving them direct access to financial resources. Nestlé and its partners will also help to set up Village Savings and Loans Associations, focused on women, to encourage savings and provide loans for small business opportunities.
Another strand of the programme is around building resilience to climate change. Climate change presents a raft of problems for cocoa farmers - from droughts and other extreme weather events to crop disease and the loss of fertile soil. As part of its commitment to creating regenerative food systems, Nestlé will incentivise farmers to carry out climate-smart activities, for example planting shade trees, that will help increase resilience to climate change and help to protect their livelihoods for years to come.
Families taking part in the programme can earn up to an additional £400 annually for the first two years of the programme. The incentive is weighted higher at the beginning to accelerate the implementation of good practices. As these practices start to yield results, the incentive will then be levelled at £200 annually.
Tracing cocoa every step of the way
It goes without saying that Nestlé is a big company, with large and complex supply chains. This can make it harder to know our supply chains inside out - but that's exactly what we are determined to achieve. A key aim of the income accelerator programme is about enabling Nestlé to trace its cocoa supply chain at every step - from individual farms right through to our chocolate factories in the UK and around the world.
The programme will start this year with 10,000 families in Côte d'Ivoire and scale up from there - with the goal of reaching all 160,000 cocoa farming families in our global supply chain by 2030. This will see Nestlé more than triple its annual investment in cocoa sustainability, investing more than a billion pounds over the next decade.
Continuing our commitment on cocoa
This work is not coming out of the blue. Nestlé has been investing in sustainability through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan since 2009. In this time, we’ve provided:
- skills training to over 120,000 farmers,
- distributed more than 15 million disease-resistant cocoa plantlets,
- assisted 150,000 children at risk of child labour,
- and built or refurbished 53 schools.
The robust monitoring and remediation system we set up in 2012 is now the industry standard by which companies monitor their supply chains. In the UK & Ireland, all of the cocoa we use has been certified sustainable since 2015, meaning a better deal for farmers.
Cocoa farming families need the support of manufacturers and the wider industry now more than ever. Nestlé's income accelerator programme is about taking collective action with governments, NGOs and others to tackle these challenges head-on.