Close to 70% of producers in Côte d’Ivoire depend on cocoa production, according to the Royal Tropical Institute of the Netherlands (KIT). However, the producers do not make a living income, the net annual income required for a household to afford a decent standard of living. To achieve that, it does not suffice to simply pay the living income reference price for cocoa. Farmers need support to diversify their incomes and adopt and good agricultural practices.
Rikolto joined forces with Colruyt Group, Entreprise Cooperative de Saint Paul (ECSP), Puratos, Access Agriculture, Agro Insight, Ghent University and Fairtrade Belgium for this project that runs from 2020 to 2023. With the funding of IDH – under the Beyond Chocolate initiative – we jointly develop an integrated approach towards a living income. We consider six parameters, including productivity and quality improvements, income diversification, access to finance, agroforestry and a decent price for cocoa, and test which ones are crucial to achieve a viable living income model for farmers.
One year after the start of the project, we take a look at the first results.
Many cocoa farmers have to rely on bad practices such as deforestation and child labour to be able to generate enough income. Close to 14,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire due to cocoa production. Rikolto, together with partners of the Beyond Chocolate project, wants to help the cocoa farmers to improve their income from cocoa production and through income diversification.
“We can really make a difference to close the living income gap by building on our experience of more than 40 years. Currently, the average revenue of cocoa production is around 500 kg/ha when it should be around 800 kg/ha for farmers to make a living income. That is why I believe this project is so important.” Alphonse Amani, Country Programme Coordinator at Rikolto
The 102 cocoa farmers involved in this project, whose cocoa is transformed into chocolate bars for Colruyt Group, receive premiums on top of the farm gate price fixed by the Conseil Cacao Café in Côte d’Ivoire: a fair trade premium and Cocoa Trace premiums. Additionally, Colruyt Group has committed to paying a premium to farmers on top of that, to ensure they earn enough to afford a decent standard of living. An analysis showed that farmers that participate in the project earned about 30% more than the farm gate price for cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire in the season of 2020-2021.
“With our premium, we close the gap between the official farmgate price and the living income reference price. As part of the Beyond Chocolate project, we launched a chocolate bar produced from cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire. This chocolate bar is available in Colruyt, Spar and Okay stores from Colruyt Group in Belgium. We are proud to say that, with this project, we are pushing for a living income for cocoa farmers.”
In Daregba and Colonel, 68 producers have so far received various farm management services such as pruning and spraying from agricultural service provider units, led by youth in the region. The service was professional, affordable and available for every farmer from both within and outside the communities according to the producers. 56 young people are involved or employed in these service units. They have been trained to provide professionalised farm services for which they receive an income. By opening up employment opportunities in these communities, we hope to contribute to reducing child labour and migration of young people towards cities in the long run.
“I never knew there was money in providing services to cocoa farmers, both within and outside our community. Thanks to the project, we are now making money and we do not have to travel to bigger cities in search of a job", says Yao Kouakou Wilfred, an entrepreneur and also Secretary of a service provider unit in Colonel.
The drying centre in Daregba is under construction
The project established four demonstration plots in Daregba and Colonel. These plots serve as open air classrooms through which farmers can be trained in good agricultural practices, so that they can produce the target yield of 800 kg/ ha. Today, ninety participants have been trained in (post-)harvest handling of cocoa in the communities on the training plots.
Furthermore, compost training is offered to the farmers. However, there is little compost production as the communities lack equipment to break the cocoa pods into the small pieces needed. “Rikolto has learned a lot from both the successes and the failures of former projects, such as our cocoa programme in Ghana. The procured knowledge can help with impactful strategic orientation in this one”, according to Alphonse Amani, Rikolto’s Country Programme Coordinator. The project will now work with one youth-led service unit in each community to build a composting business. That way, the quality of cocoa beans has already improved.
Centralised fermentation and drying centres in Colonel have been built, but the Daregba fermentation and drying centre was delayed due to access to the land. Rikolto, supported by ECSP, negotiated with the chief of the village Gre-leon for the access. Construction started in January 2022 and is expected to be done by June 2022. At that time, women will also be trained on fermentation and drying processes.
In 2021, 7 different farmer-to-farmer training videos have been translated into two major local languages, Baoule and Dioula. These videos were screened for farmers in both communities in order to make them available and accessible to farmers. 98 farmers took part in the project and reported positively on the initiative, but some were worried about the internet connection needed to watch the videos
88 farmers from both Daregba and Colonel, mostly women, have been trained in good agricultural practices for cassava production, which has so far led to two hectares of production. The participants reported they felt supported in acquiring quality planting materials to establish cassava farms. These varieties are highly yielding and disease resistant. Each community received a tricycle and a cassava processing machine to facilitate harvesting and processing.
Generally, women handle cassava production and men are occupied with cocoa production. Both groups have been encouraged to diversify their production opportunities and income streams. They can for example produce poultry, fruit and vegetables. Which types are being cultivated, depends on the region, explains Alphonse Amani: “The quality of the soil is a very important factor in the decision, as is the market in the region. For example, many farmers are cultivating cassava because it is the key ingredient in two important dishes in Côte d’Ivoire: Attiéké and Plakali.” Two motorised pumps installed to regulate irrigation for fruits and vegetables also contributed to diversifying income streams. Callivoire, an agro-input company, shares its technical know-how. The company will also analyse the soil and recommend crop types to the farmers, who have started planning and preparing to construct poultry houses in the communities as well.
Raphael Audoin-Rouzeau, the global Cacao Sourcing manager of Puratos in Belgium, visited Daregba and Colonel to connect with stakeholders and interact with farmers.
“During my visit, Rikolto, Puratos and ECSP could meet to reflect on aspects of the project. This included for instance some issues related to the slow delivery of fresh cocoa to the Colonel fermentation and drying centre.”
Abdulahi Aliyu, Rikolto’s Global Cocoa Programme Director, also visited the project communities to monitor the project progress and interact with farmers and ECSP on challenges of the project and agree on a way forward. "The farmers suggested some issues that needed to be dealt with, such as delivery of cocoa to fermentation centres, construction of poultry houses, and the need to make good use of the equipment.”
Rikolto joins HES Finance to raise awareness among farmers on investment opportunities in their communities. Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) are being set up and linked to financial institutions to introduce farmers to banks to have access to cheaper finance options. The VSLA’s create an opportunity for the farmers to use their savings to lend money to each other. The seven VLSAs mobilised a total of 3,424,976 CFA francs under the project. The first cycle of the project will come to an end in May 2022, but members can start new cycles if they want to. “Thanks to the VSLAs, we are now friends that meet regularly to talk freely about money and social issues within the community”, says cocoa farmer Pargo Moumony. 198 people, of which 43% women, are engaged in VSLAs.