One-on-One Farmer Coaching Program in Côte d’Ivoire Leads to Increased Yields

Progress Blog
One-on-One Farmer Coaching Program in Côte d’Ivoire Leads to Increased Yields

By Ghislain Romuald Rabe, Agronomist & Operations Manager, Barry Callebaut - 12/20/16

As a longtime cocoa and chocolate supplier for Mondelēz International, Barry Callebaut sources beans directly from cooperatives and farmers in countries including Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Under its Forever Chocolate strategy, the company has committed to sustainability and to improving cocoa farmers’ lives and livelihoods. Building on their mutually aligned goals, Cocoa Life has partnered with Barry Callebaut (among other cocoa suppliers) in Côte d’Ivoire to offer productivity packages to farmers. They provide fertilizer, seedlings, and training to coach farmers in good agricultural practices. This program is another step in the Cocoa Life journey to create a strong cocoa supply chain while nurturing empowered, thriving cocoa communities. By coordinating these efforts with the community programs we are implementing together with other partners (including NGOs, governments, farming organizations, and communities), we are working to turn this vision into a reality. Here, Ghislain Romuald Rabe, an agronomist for Barry Callebaut, shares how a commitment to long-term support of farmers is key to increased yields and sustainable growth.

Good agricultural practices are the basis of good cocoa production. As part of Barry Callebaut’s productivity package with Cocoa Life, we provide, among other, training to farmers in pruning, the safe and right application of inputs such as crop protection, fertilizer or planting materials. To see the results of these practices firsthand, farmers can visit one of our demonstration plots.

But it’s not enough to teach these practices. We must ensure farmers are able to adopt them. To make a real impact, creative solutions are needed. Last year, we introduced two big innovations in our program: banking services and coaching for farmers. A farm is a business, and businesses need financial services. By facilitating access to agricultural credit, we help farmers obtain inputs when they need them. Farmers are also assisted in opening savings accounts, so they can establish a banking history—making it possible for them to eventually obtain loans from local financial institutions.

It’s equally important that farmers know how to use these inputs. In the past, farmers were trained at our field schools. They applied the practices they learned without any support—and sometimes their implementation wasn’t good. This can have negative effects. For example, when inputs are improperly applied, it can harm the roots and lead to tree death. Now, farmers receive not only training, but also follow-up visits from our coaches throughout the year to help them with agricultural practices.

Since we started the coaching program, we have received more and more requests, confirming the value of this one-on-one support. We see farmers getting better at implementing the recommendations of their training. As a result, their yields have increased and thus incomes.

"We rely on our suppliers, such as Barry Callebaut, to enroll farmers and farmers’ organizations into the Cocoa Life training on good agricultural practices. Together, we are looking at making good-quality inputs available at affordable prices. Both of these actions can help improve productivity, which increases the volume that farmers can sell and therefore increases their income. We believe that this will allow farmers to allocate less land to cocoa. The saved land could be used to harvest other crops, making them more resilient to cocoa price fluctuations. If farmers are able to produce more from the same amount of land, it will prevent the expansion that leads to deforestation."

Cedric van Cutsem, Global Operations Manager for Cocoa Life.

Greater yields mean more income for farmers. This gives farmers more access to healthcare and education for their children, helping to reduce child labor.

Improved productivity has a big impact.