COVID-19 and cocoa farmer impact

Corona virus (COVID-19) brings a double burden to cocoa farmers.

In early April, Antonie Fountain, Friedel Hütz-Adams and I worked from three key reasons for cacao and chocolate industry to respond directly to the COVID-19 cocoa farmer impact. It is published directly on the VOICEnetwork website here:

1 Producing countries of cacao are not prepared for COVID-19

No countries were at operational readiness in African and South-East Asian regions (1) for COVID-19. Operational readiness defined in short by the WHO; Prevent (infection prevention), detect (early warning, respond (what to do if suspect outbreak on farm/cooperation), enable (funds and skillsets – village health professionals). 

Big Ideas

1. Cacao farmers already suffer from poor health, and are in an ultra-vulnerable situation with COVID-19

2. Cacao and Chocolate industry should act

3. Call to action with VOICE network

4. Interview on the topic:

WKND Chocolate with Lauren Heineck a 20 minute interview outlining the key messages

2 Procedural support for managing COVID-19 is required

There are various organizations working collaboratively in Africa, AFTCOR, Africa CDC, and WHO to build testing capacity (only 2 African countries had COVID testing capacity), however, countries will need help with proper quarantine and infection control protocols, including procedures for implementing social distancing (mass gathering and potential closure of facilities) (2). This directly impacts the role of COVID-19 and cocoa farmers.

3 Cacao farmers have high degrees of pre-existing respiratory conditions 

Evidence from Indonesia demonstrates that between 10-16% of farmers experience coughing, chest pain or difficulty in breathing generally (3) , anecdotal evidence from UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire is that farmer’s top two ailments are malaria and pneumonia. Fever and cough were the two main reasons for seeking health care for males in Bougainville (PNG) research (4). Around the world, cacao farmers lungs and other pre-existing health care conditions (5) (6) (7) (8) make them vulnerable to COVID-19 and this is combined with lack of access to general health care (9) (10) (11), let alone pandemic-health care (12).

As the SARSCoV2 is global, and so is the chocolate industry, now is the time to demonstrate how a globalized network of capacity and support can be of use (13) (14).

Follow our work regarding the call to action here.

Voicenetwork COVID-19 cocoa farm response

More links to look at:

Lauren runs this podcast, Well Tempered, which focuses on women in cacao and chocolate. And she also writes this blog WKND Chocolate about her adventures in and around chocolate experiences she creates herself.

I strongly recommend this interview with Dr Carla Martin from the FCCI about the flash poll results conducted with n=159 small producer organisations around the world and the impact that COVID-19 and physical distancing has had on their farming, and trading. More about Carla and the FCCI here; and be in touch here

Unternehmensgruen supports call to action

If you have something to contribute to this article, please contact us here:

1. Kandel N, Chungong S, Omaar A, Xing J. Health security capacities in the context of COVID-19 outbreak: an analysis of International Health Regulations annual report data from 182 countries. The Lancet. 2020.

2. Nkengasong JN, Mankoula W. Looming threat of COVID-19 infection in Africa: act collectively, and fast. The Lancet. 2020;395(10227):841–2.

3. Arsyad DS, Nasir S, Arundhana AI, Phan-Thien K-Y, Toribio J-A, McMahon P, et al. A one health exploration of the reasons for low cocoa productivity in West Sulawesi. One Health. 2019;8.

4. Walton M, Guest, D., Vinning, G., Hill-Cawthorne, G., Black, K., Betitis, T., Totavun, C., Butubu, J., Hall, J., Saul-Maora, J. Case study 1: Improving the livelihood of farmers in Bougainville. In: Walton M, editor. One Planet, One Health. Sydney: Sydney University Press. ; 2019. p. 127-41.

5. Verina Ingram YW, Lan Ge, Simone van Vugt, Lucia Wegner, Linda Puister-Jansen,, Tanoh FRaR. Impact of UTZ Certification of cocoa in Ivory Coast. 2014.

6. Yap SMS, Demayo CG. Farmers’ knowledge and understanding of pesticide use and field spraying practices: a case study of rice farmers in the municipality of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines.(Case study). Advances in Environmental Biology. 2015;9(27):134.

7. Apeh CC. Farmers’ Perception of the Health Effects of Agrochemicals in Southeast Nigeria. J Health Pollut. 2018;8(19):180901.

8. Bell JD, Taylor MF, Amos M, Andrew NL. Climate change and Pacific Island food systems the future of food, farming and fishing in the Pacific Islands under a changing climate. 2016.

9. Oyekale AS. Climate change induced occupational stress and reported morbidity among cocoa farmers in South-Western Nigeria. 2015.

10. Asafo-Adjei E, Buabeng E. An Evaluation of Challenges Facing Smallholders in Ghana: A Case Study for the Aowin Suaman District. Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare. 2016;6(3).

11.       Foundjem-Tita D, Degrande A, Donovan J, Stoian D, Kouamé C. Baseline for assessing the impact of fairtrade certification on cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. 2017.

12.       Wang J, Xu C, Wong YK, He Y, Adegnika AA, Kremsner PG, et al. Preparedness is essential for malaria-endemic regions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lancet. 2020.

13.       Anderson RM, Heesterbeek H, Klinkenberg D, Hollingsworth TD. How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic? The Lancet. 2020;395(10228):931–4.

14.       Lawrence Haddad JF, Steve Godfrey, Corinna Hawkes, Saul Morris and Lynnette Neufeld. GAIN. 2020. Available from:

15.       Hanna R, Olken BA. Universal basic incomes versus targeted transfers: Anti-poverty programs in developing countries. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2018;32(4):201-26.

16.       Dr. Diarra Ibrahim YGNG, Abdoulaye Kouma, Andjou Chantal Eluh, Tidiane Kamagaté, Diarra Lacina and Aka Aka Bekroudjobehon. Living Income Report – Rural Côte d’Ivoire Cocoa growing areas. Ivorian Center for Socio Economic Research (CIRES); 2018.

17.       Sally Smith DS. Living Income Report – Rural Ghana. Cocoa growing areas of Ashanti, Central, Eastern, and Western Regions. GIZ, Sustainable Food Lab, ISEAL; 2018.

Double burden of COVID-19 for cocoa farmers

Farmer health, livelihood and productivity related to training. This article was about COVID-19 cocoa farmer impact.