Preserving the future of cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire
Nearly half of the world’s chocolate supply is grown in Côte d’Ivoire1, where more than a million smallholder farmers depend on cocoa production for their livelihoods. Cocoa is also vital to the country’s economy. But meeting the predicted increase in demand for chocolate by 20202 will depend on empowering smallholder farmers to increase productivity and make a decent living.
Cocoa farming challenges
Ageing cocoa trees produce fewer pods, directly impacting farmers’ yields and profits. Re-planting is costly, and farmers may opt instead to deforest new areas to grow new plantations. In fact, the country’s rainforest cover has dropped by more than 80% since 19603.
High temperatures and irregular downpours – prompted by climate change – exacerbate the risk of trees becoming infected with fungal disease. “Swollen shoot” disease swept through the country in 2017, with up to 40% of cocoa trees affected in the worst hit areas of Bouaflé and Sinfra.
How does Oikocredit empower Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa farmers?
To achieve the volumes required to secure deals with global cocoa traders and chocolate makers, cocoa cooperatives must make pre-payments to the farmers supplying them with cocoa. Smaller cooperatives struggle to obtain finance to make these pre-payments, as mainstream banks tend to require proof of assets or large volumes of beans in storage.
“We aim to improve farmers’ livelihoods and prevent deforestation by investing in smallholder cooperatives and supporting initiatives to raise productivity, re-plant ageing plantations and promote crop diversification,” explains Solène Prince-Agbodjan, Oikocredit agricultural technical advisor for West Africa.
The SOCAK KATANA, Allah Bekele de Fresco (CABF) and Entreprise Coopérative Kimbe (ECOOKIM) co-ops all produce cocoa beans certified by the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance, and/or Fairtrade. Together, they support 24,970 smallholder farmers across the country’s 12 regions, producing an average of 58,450 tonnes of cocoa annually.
Connecting small cooperatives with global markets is a vital part of helping them expand and grow their revenues. By way of example, Dutch-based chocolate maker Tony’s Chocolonely (Tony’s) sources its cocoa beans from cooperatives financed by Oikocredit. The cocoa beans are sold via exporter Ocean Source SA to Tony’s trader Cocoa Source SA. Tony’s sources cocoa according to five principles in order to realise a living income for farmers: 1) traceability 2) a higher price 3) strong farmers 4) long-term commitment 5) better quality and productivity.
Understanding the social impact
By gaining access to finance, cooperatives can scale up their operations, grow their membership, and strengthen their operations. ECOOKIM gained 3,000 members in three years, reaching 13,364 members in 2017, which raises the volume of cocoa beans collected from its producer members.
The increase in sales also brings greater fair trade premiums. These are directed to learning sustainable farming techniques, including crop diversification (which helps to promote soil health while providing an additional revenue stream for farmers) and purchasing inputs, tools and equipment. The premiums also fund training on topics including health and safety, combating child labour, and women’s empowerment, and support community projects.
For example, SOCAK KATANA is supporting women in its community in developing greater economic independence by growing tomatoes and salad and raising chickens, and selling their produce at local markets.
“The social aspect is fundamental for us,” explains Solène Prince Agbodjan. “The social impact has an important multiplier effect, as for each farmer, there are typically another four to five beneficiaries.”
Oikocredit will continue collaborating with multiple like-minded organisations to develop long-term, innovation solutions to cocoa farming challenges in Côte d’Ivoire, including through microfinance and crop diversification initiatives.
For more information on Oikocredit’s work with our cocoa partners in Côte d’Ivoire, please click here.
1 World Cocoa Foundation, Cocoa Market Update 2012
2 Fairtrade Cocoa Commodity Briefing, 2016
3 The Guardian Chocolate Industry Drives Rainforest Loss in Ivory Coast https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/13/chocolate-industry-drives-rainforest-disaster-in-ivory-coast (13 September 2017)