Sustainable cocoa and coffee

A way towards a living income for Ghanaian cocoa farmers

March 8, 2023

Many Ghanese cocoa farmers live in poverty. Often it is not enough for a small-scale farmer to have a minimum price guaranteed for a cash crop such as cocoa. If we do not make sure that farmers can make a decent living out of their activities, deforestation and child labour will not be solved. We joined forces with supermarket chain Lidl, Fairtrade Belgium & International and Kuapa Kokoo, to diversify farmers' incomes and professionalise production processes.

Icon Place

Country

Region

Kumasi and Nobewam

Icon Scope

Scope

440 cocoa farming households, or approximately 2,640 people

Icon Duration

Duration

2019-2023

Challenges

KK drying cocoa beans
Kwaku Nti drying cocoa beans. © KKFU/Fairtrade
  • Many farmers still live in poverty. Often it is not enough for a small-scale farmer to have a minimum price guaranteed for a cash crop such as cocoa. As poverty is the root of the problem, if we do not make sure that farmers can make a decent living out of their activities, deforestation and child labour will not be solved.
  • Since deforestation and child labour are a strong feature of cocoa production in the West African countries, these are the primary challenges to tackle.
  • Even though Ghana is one of world’s biggest cocoa suppliers, its productivity in the cocoa sector is among the world’s lowest. An average farmer’s household from KK produces less than 1 ton of cocoa beans per year. This is because, in addition to stopping investing in their farms, many farmers grow the crop on plots that are too small and with improper practices that do not allow them to sell enough to live on. That is why it is necessary to both improve crop productivity and diversification and to increase additional income-generating opportunities for farmers.
  • Bridging the gender gap. The real gender challenge is at household level, not in the cooperative. Generally, in the cocoa sector, women work in cocoa bean harvesting and processing, but because of their socio-economic conditions and cultural influence, women are not allowed to own a property in some communities, which makes it harder for them to access land. In addition, as cocoa is a ‘cash crop’, there is the perception that it is a man’s crop ‘because a man needs money’, making women generally much less engaged in the sector. The tangible consequence is that when a woman wants to be involved in farming, she is more likely to be running a horticultural or fruit business. The reality is not that there are no women cocoa farmers, but that it is harder for them to get involved in the business or sector.
  • Currently the average cocoa farmer is older than 50, and it is difficult to find examples of generational continuation. Most young people, even if they already own a small plot, do not want cocoa farming to be their way of life. This is because young people want quick money and they believe that cocoa farming is too much hard work for a non-profitable business: a cocoa farm only generates income 5 years after it has been established.

KK emptying cocoa bag
Kwaku Jonas emptying the bag to dry fermented cocoa beans. © KKFU/Fairtrade

KK emptying cocoa bag 2
Kwaku Jonas emptying the bag to dry fermented cocoa beans. © Philippe Weiler

We see that it is often not enough, for small-scale farmers, to have a guaranteed minimum price for a cash crop such as coffee or cocoa. Therefore, this project is based on the Living Income framework. It aims to tackle the root cause of problems in the cocoa industry: poverty. If we do not look at farmers’ income first, tackling deforestation and child labour will remain problematic. The Living Income calculates the net annual income a farmer’s family’s needs in order to fulfil their basic human rights in a specific location. This project will be used to test the implementation and calculation of this new concept.

Abdulahi Aliyu

Global Cocoa and Coffee programme director

Our approach

  • We chose to form a partnership with Kuapa Kokoo in this project since, in addition to having been Fairtrade certified for a long time, it is a strong organisation that can guarantee 100% transparency and traceability. Within the cooperative there is a dedicated committee monitoring farmer communities to prevent child labour.
  • Lidl will act as overall coordinator of the Way To Go initiative. Together with Kuapa Kokoo, two interventions were selected on income diversification and good agricultural practices that will contribute directly to the future sustainability of the business. These interventions will be managed jointly by Rikolto, Fairtrade Africa and Kuapa Kokoo. The more Way To Go advances, the more farmers will be able to benefit from the interventions. Rikolto, besides giving advice, will carry out a cost-benefit analysis and look at the economic rationale of the project’s interventions. In the future, Lidl hopes to be able to add more interventions, focusing on e.g. agroforestry, child labour, …
  • Since diversifying farmers' incomes and professionalising their production process are two important pillars of this projects, our colleagues will provide support in this regard.
  1. We will train experts among the farmers to ensure that plant protection products are used according to the strictest standards, that pruning and post-harvesting practices will be carried out properly and, at a later stage, we will introduce agroforestry to plant shade and fruit trees within cocoa plantations. This will contribute to reducing the negative impact of climate change and guarantee increased productivity.
  2. Income diversification is the backbone of this project, and we will join forces with the farmers to grow other crops and to process additional products such as rice, honey and soap and bring these products successfully to the market.
KK Drying fermented cocoa beans in Nobewam community
Drying fermented cocoa beans in Nobewam community. © KKFU/Fairtrade

  • In a first stage, Rikolto will set up a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) system, which is a microcredit activity at community level to make investments in farming and community businesses possible. In the past, when such initiatives were set up, we observed that women were the first to come and, finally, the number of women who benefited from VSLAs was greater than the number of men, making it a very strong female empowerment tool. Through the VSLA, we will train women to start seedling nursery activities. In this way, women can sell the seedlings to other community members who will need them for agroforestry practices, get an income from them and, at the same time, contribute to solving the issue of deforestation.
  • Young people who want to get directly involved in cocoa production, and who already own a small plot and have other resources, will be supported in applying good agricultural practices and helped to set up their business with advice and encouragement. The second option will target those who do not want to be cocoa farmers. We will train and help them to start Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that will provide services such as pruning and weeding.
  • Lessons learned will be shared with the Living Income Community of Practice and Beyond Chocolate co-signers.
No items found.

Results

This project will be one of the first achievements of the Beyond Chocolate Charter signed by all major Belgian sector players. In implementing this project we will go beyond our work in Ghana.

KK group photo
Bram (Rikolto), Philippe (Lidl) and Bettina (Fairtrade) with Nobwam community members. © KKFU/Fairtrade

What do we want to achieve by 2021?

The project aims to improve the living conditions of at least 440 farmer families (both men and women) in Ghana, to make their business activities resilient and sustainable and to raise awareness among more than one million customers across the countries where the chocolate bar will be sold.

What do we want to achieve by 2030?

The project aims to increase the numbers of beneficiaries by expanding to more Kuapa Kokoo members and other chocolate products, spreading to other Lidl countries and by inspiring other retailers.

KK ceo samuel adimado
Kuapa Kokoo Limited CEO Samuel Adimado at the office. © KKFU/Fairtrade
KK steven_kwaah_studying_w2g_chocolate_wrapper
Steven Kwaah studying WayToGo chocolate wrapper. © KKFU/Fairtrade
Kuapa Kokoo women group in rice field
One group of eight women is currently growing rice on a total of four plots of one acre each (1.6 hectare in total). They learnt how to grow rice and received the first set of seeds in 1992 in a Chinese funded development project. © Philippe Weiler
KK distributing W2G chocolate
Susana distributing W2G chocolates at Nobewam Community. © KKFU/Fairtrade

In 2015 Lidl committed to have all its chocolate supply sold accordingly to the sustainable standards of UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade. The goal was achieved in 2016 and, 2 years later, in 2018, Lidl signed Beyond Chocolate. As a result, Lidl invited stakeholders around the table to develop a first initiative around Living Income in the chocolate sector. Rikolto and Fairtrade were involved since the beginning and, after 2 years, a first product was born under the name Way To Go: a chocolate bar for which an extra premium, on top of the Fairtrade premium, is paid to substantially move towards a Living Income. Today Way To Go chocolate bars can be found in Belgium and Netherlands and other countries will follow soon.

Philippe Weiler

Head of Sustainability at Lidl Belgium & Luxemburg

Who do we work with?

 Fairtrade Belgium
Lidl
Fairtrade International
Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative

Contact

Abdulahi Aliyu

Cocoa and Coffee | Global director

abdulahi.aliyu@rikolto.org

Stories from the ground

Discover more stories