Rikolto's Cocoa Cluster: pushing for a more competitive and resilient cocoa sector
Rikolto's Cocoa Cluster: pushing for a more competitive and resilient cocoa sector
Cocoa provides a livelihood for an estimated 40-50 million people worldwide. The bulk of the product still originates from family-run farms. However, these smallholder farmers have limited access to resources and are often cut out of the trade, ending up in poverty and leaving their huge potential untapped. To ensure change on a global scale towards more sustainability in the cocoa sector, we must tackle a number of challenges first.
Smallholders, particularly women and young people, lack market certainty, incentives, and financial and labour capacity.
Cocoa price fluctuations heavily impact on smallholder farmers’ livelihoods.
Climate change threatens the global supply of cocoa.
An ageing farmer population, which curbs investments in innovation.
Young people are increasingly abandoning rural areas.
Farmers’ organisations often lack the capability to become trustworthy business partners that can represent their members effectively.
Two pillars are at the heart of our cluster work for the coming years. We focus on public-private investment models for the sustainable supply of cocoa, and push for cocoa to become an attractive and sustainable sector for youth.
In its global cocoa programme, Rikolto tests and harvests new solutions to make the cocoa sector more sustainable and resilient.
1. We pilot innovative approaches
We empower cocoa farmers’ organisations to become solid business partners, to have better access to markets and finance, and to implement future-proof, sustainable practices.
We connect them with wholesalers, banks and other stakeholders in the cocoa sector to explore new ways of doing business and facilitate public-private sector alliances to make the cocoa sector more transparent, so consumers can make a sustainable choice.
We create opportunities in the cocoa sector for young women and men and empower them to revitalise cocoa value chains through innovation.
2. We learn from each other
- Peer-to-peer monitoring across regions and knowledge exchanges between partners allow us to gain insight into what works and what doesn’t.
3. We influence the international agenda
The evidence we gather in the field will go to international discussion platforms: we will share successful models for the professionalisation of producer organisations, for investments in diversified cocoa production systems, and for the inclusion of young people, so other stakeholders can replicate our proven experiences.
This way, we move forward the political agenda and national policies in favour of a more competitive and resilient cocoa sector.
What we offer
Our experienced, professional staff can offer depth local and international industry knowledge, strong assessment and business tools, and customised training, ranging from finance, marketing and business model development to technical assistance and strategic coaching advice.
We have a strong track record in developing partnerships between producers’ organisations, wholesalers, banks and other stakeholders in the value chain.
Our international cocoa programme in a nutshell
Rikolto's track record in cocoa
Rikolto has been running cocoa programmes in South-East Asia and Latin America for over 25 years. Scroll down our most important achievements here:
2018: Rikolto is starting up a cocoa programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are researching the fermentation and drying methods that give the best results in terms of bean quality, and these findings will be used as a basis for designing a climate-smart strategy to build farmers' capacities to produce fine flavour cacao, ensuring constancy of quality and volumes big enough to start exporting. Pilot activities are taking place with 1 farmer cooperative with a membership total of 2,600 cocoa farmers.
2018: The Belgian supermarket Colruyt Group starts selling a Nicaraguan single origin chocolate produced by 206 young cocoa farmers, sons and daughters of members of our partner cooperative La Campesina. This is but the culmination of our Yes Youth Can! initiative, directed at making the cocoa sector more attractive for youth. The four-year initiative led to an increase in the cooperative’s youth membership from 5 to 11%; the setup of a youth commission with 24 youth leaders representing young farmers’ voices in the cooperative’s decision-making; and the creation of four cocoa-related start-ups. Furthermore, a diploma course on "Cocoa production in agroforestry systems" was launched for 75 youngsters from Nicaragua and Honduras, who in turn will pass on the knowledge to their peers.
2017: In Central America, we have facilitated the creation of a Regional Cocoa Platform. Government representatives, private companies, farmers, researchers and support organisations from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are jointly designing a vision and strategy for the region’s cocoa sector, focused on the three pillars of climate smart cocoa: productivity, resilience, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Ultimately, this will lead to increased knowledge and income for up to 5,000 cocoa farmers.
2016: The Indonesian government has published its National Curriculum and Training Module of Sustainable Cocoa Cultivation and Post-Harvest Practices. This module provides guidance to cocoa farmers to produce better quality cocoa beans and to see a two-fold increase in their cocoa production. As member of the supervisory board of the Cocoa Sustainability Partnership, an Indonesian public-private forum to advance sustainability in the cocoa sector, Rikolto actively contributed to the development of this Training Module. As a next step, our contribution was requested for the development of competence standards for people working in the cocoa sector.
2015: Rikolto successfully developed two methodologies, powered by SenseMaker, to capture farmers’ voices on pressing issues. The Inclusive Business Scan, developed with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, allows us to organise real-time feedback on inclusive business in smallholder supply chains. In Indonesia, we collected stories of 1,036 farmers belonging to the Amanah cooperative, all selling cocoa to Mars. In Nicaragua, we collected another 415 stories from members of two cooperatives selling to Ritter Sport. The insights we gain in the complex relations between farmers and the buyers of their products, allow us to increase the impact of our programmes. Furthermore, the Youth in Agriculture Scan, created in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation, allows us to capture the voices of youth and use what is learned as input for public policies matching the youngsters’ needs. In Ecuador, Peru and Nicaragua, we researched the triggers for 876 young people’s integration into the coffee and cocoa sectors.
2014: Rikolto partnered with Nicaraguan farmer organisation La Campesina to revitalise cocoa production, foster sustainable farming practices and build up inclusive commercial relations. Within less than a year, its 351 cocoa farmers landed their first major contract: they sold 157 tonnes of high-quality cocoa beans to the German chocolate company Ritter Sport. Because of their commitment to quality and the business capacity trainings facilitated by Rikolto, La Campesina had become, by 2016, economically viable through the income it generates from selling cocoa to export markets. This pilot project even motivated Ritter Sport to incorporate inclusive sourcing policies into its business model, thus reaching far more cocoa farmers.
2013: Rikolto and Mars joined forces on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi to test a new inclusive business model. Mars provided technical assistance to talented young cocoa farmers, enabling them to become professional “cocoa doctors”. They deliver services to farmers in their community, such as production-related training and the provision of input supplies. Meanwhile, Rikolto provided business coaching to farmer organisations, so they could grow into trustworthy business partners. Furthermore, Mars agreed to facilitate access to finance and pay a premium upfront for their certified cocoa beans. In Sulawesi, over 7,500 cocoa farmers benefitted from this model, and have doubled their income in three years’ time. Building on this success, Mars has been replicating this model with other cocoa-producing organisations worldwide.
2012: Rikolto pioneered one of the first youth involvement initiatives in Peru’s cocoa sector. Since then, we have empowered 400 young people to pursue opportunities across the cocoa chain, ranging from production to processing, quality control and commercialisation of cocoa. The training models we used, are currently being replicated by other institutions such as municipalities and cooperatives.
1994: Rikolto launched its first cocoa programme in Ecuador. In the next two decades, we built our expertise in the professionalisation of farmer organisations and sustainable cocoa production, setting up cocoa programmes in Indonesia, Peru, Honduras and Nicaragua.