Cocoa Life Country Lead Mbalo Ndiaye in Cote d’Ivoire.
Creating a sustainable cocoa program is only possible with teamwork. For years, many cocoa farmers in the Cote d’Ivoire community of Bezu in the Daloa region sold their crops to individual buyers or “traitants” at various prices that were unfavorable to the farmers. As a result of Cocoa Life interventions, with the assistance of our partner NGO, CARE International, an increasing number of farmers joined the partner farmer organization and now sell their cocoa with better terms of trade, including prices and volumes that are agreed upon up front.
Our partner ECOM provides production training and extension services to farmers with the objectives of increasing productivity, and providing management training to the leaders of their organizations. This partnership serves 6,000 farmers in 80 Cocoa Life communities. Beginning in 2014, ECOM and ADVANS (a micro-finance institution) developed a savings plan which has greatly improved farmers’ financial literacy.
In May 2013, Cocoa Life signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Conseil du Café-Cacao of Cote d’Ivoire. This agreement set forth a plan for Cocoa Life to work closely with the central government, local authorities, NGOs, and suppliers.
Because of the MOU, we’ve established a clear channel of communication with local communities, officials, and other stakeholders in the supply chain. This has allowed us to better assess and address the needs of farming communities.
Cooperation among partners also benefits our community development interventions. As part of our holistic approach, we believe that the well-being of the entire community is essential for sustainable development.
This belief was a main driver in Cocoa Life’s needs assessment program. Working with a team, including CARE International, we collected data from hundreds of one-on-one interviews and focus groups involving community associations such as farmers’ organizations and women’s groups. The Cote d’Ivoire Needs Assessment Report (which is posted under "Latest News" at right), identifies priorities in cocoa-farming communities. As the document states: “By enabling us to hear farmers’ and communities’ voices, the assessment brings their needs to life and helps Cocoa Life build plans that are relevant.”
As one example: the Needs Assessment Report found that only 16.5 percent of women cocoa farmers who had access to land by heritage could afford to buy it, because they earn less than men. Together with our partner NGOs, such as CARE International and Solidaridad, we’ve created programs to help women invest in their farms, grow small businesses, and diversify their income sources. In addition to increasing farmers’ incomes, Cocoa Life is committed to elevating communities as a whole.
Working with our partners, we have also implemented interventions to address child labor and education. In the Sikouboutou community, our outreach team identified many children without birth certificates. Through Cocoa Life’s work with local partners, about 250 children were able to obtain this important document, which allowed them to enroll in school. I’m excited to share this story because it illustrates how we’re building communities for the next generation.
Cote d’Ivoire accounts for 40 percent of the world’s cocoa production, and we are rapidly expanding the Cocoa Life program here. Our goal is to create empowered, thriving cocoa farming communities, and we want to do it at scale. Currently, Cocoa Life works with 20,000 farmers in 170 communities in Cote d’Ivoire. Over the coming years, we plan to reach 75,000 farmers in 400 communities.
Cocoa Life has experienced much progress in Cote d’Ivoire over the past few years. As we continue to grow, we’ll implement additional farming and community development programs. I welcome the work, because it means that by working together with NGOs, suppliers, and farmer organizations and local community groups, we’re creating a better future for cocoa-growing communities.