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Reforms in cocoa sector must focus on farmers’ income

The Regional Director for Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Kwadwo Gyamfi, has said there is urgent need to explore mechanisms that bring in more money to cocoa farmers instead of solely focusing on productivity to tackle the living income gap.

He observed that productivity is not enough to improve farmers’ well-being without considering other multiple streams of income.

To this end, he said high productivity and good pricing; diversification of the crop portfolio of cocoa farmers; and enabling farmers and producer groups to have a share in margins made upstream in the cocoa supply chain, should all be considered.

“These are areas that we need to discuss very seriously and look at innovative ways of addressing them going into the future,” he said.

This concern comes at the time cocoa producing countries continue to seek grounds to deepen farmer-productivity in a bid to improve the living income situation of cocoa farmers amid rising global concern on farmers’ well-being and cocoa sustainability.

Mr. Gyamfi, speaking at the sidelines of the closing ceremony for the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP II) of Solidaridad West Africa, observed that key lessons from the programme should help shape the discourse on cocoa sustainability.

For instance, he said, government policies in the cocoa sector should remain consistent in a manner that allows the private sector to plan and contribute to bringing transformation to the sector.

Furthermore, he recognised the need to leverage technology to address forest degradation by updating existing forest maps and making sure that there are associated land use plans that clarify areas to grow the cocoa crop.

CORIP II, funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands, follows the successful implementation of the first phase (2013-2017), which demonstrated the business case for developing sustainable West African cocoa production through the set-up and operation of service delivery models.

The four-year programme was implemented between November 2017 and December 2021. It focused on contributing toward the climate-smart intensification of existing cocoa production systems, leading to sustainable productivity improvements, and economic returns for cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Among key outcomes of CORIP II, it was revealed that the programme offered support to young entrepreneurs across implementing countries to establish 146 service delivery enterprises. The service centres provide critical professional services such as farm maintenance, labour, agro-inputs and tools to cocoa farmers within the cocoa landscape of the four countries to boost their production capacity.

It also emerged that more than 4,400 jobs were created by these small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating the service delivery models.

Meanwhile, the estimated 80,000 farmers who were reached by these SMEs were said to have increased their yields and transitioned out of poverty.

The programme also mobilised €17.5million in private capital for cocoa farmers and SMEs operating the service delivery models.

Under the programme, Solidaridad, through an investment readiness support model, prepared small and medium enterprises for commercial funding to grow their businesses. The support includes training in business model optimisation, climate-smart cocoa production and entrepreneurship,

Mr. Gyamfi maintained that CORIP has demonstrated that service delivery through commercial partners is key to mobilising the needed private capital for cocoa sustainability in West Africa.

“The service delivery models have shown that it is possible to use ethical labour, promote the adoption of responsible production practices, and improve household incomes for cocoa farmers,” he said.

The Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), Edwin Afari, also acknowledged at the ceremony that over 70,000 cocoa farmers were trained in climate-smart cocoa production.

The Dutch Ambassador to Ghana, Jeroen Verheul, said the programme has contributed to the embassy’s overarching goal of poverty reduction and sustainable cocoa production in the programme countries.

He noted that CORIP has generated valuable lessons that will contribute to the conceptualisation, design, funding, and implementation of future programmes, not only for donors like the Dutch government, but also for private actors and government as well.

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