Germany’s Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (left) and Wolf Kropp-Büttner, Board Chairman of the Sustainable Cocoa Forum. © R. Krieg

Germany’s Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (left) and Wolf Kropp-Büttner, Board Chairman of the Sustainable Cocoa Forum.
Photo: © R. Krieg

Helping cocoa farmers out of the poverty trap

At its annual conference, Germany’s Sustainable Cocoa Forum presented its support strategies for small-scale cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire.

Chocolate enthusiasts are occasionally alarmed by reports of the coca tree dying out. Droughts and diseases are causing lower yields. However, relief organisations fear that it is the cocoa farmers who are becoming rarer. For with a daily wage of 0.50 euro cents paid in Côte d’Ivoire, the cocoa farmers’ children prefer to move to the city.

The Cocoa Barometer 2015 refers to income as the biggest obstacle to the development of rural regions and cocoa production that could take people out of hunger and poverty. The multitude of smallholders are faced by a handful of multinational corporations. The cocoa farmers are hardly organised and produce the cocoa in regions without infrastructure or schools.

The cocoa industry has long grasped what is at stake. But it was not before 2012, following long negotiations in Abidjan, the seat of government in Côte d’Ivoire, that its representatives met with the World Cocoa Conference (WCC) to discuss the introduction of changes with the aid of a plan of action. In the same year, the Sustainable Cocoa Forum was founded in Germany.

At the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Berlin, Germany, in mid-April, Germany’s Federal Minister of Agriculture, Christian Schmidt praised the Forum’s activities in Côte d’Ivoire, where the initiative is currently putting its criteria into practice. In 2016, the Forum was distinguished as a “beacon project in sustainability” by the Federal Government.

According to Forum Chairman Wolf Kropp-Büttner, the amounts of cocoa on the German sustainable cocoa market are a sign that the latter has long ceased to be a niche. “The journey is more important than the goal,” Kropp-Büttner added and refused to quote market share statistics. The share of sustainable cocoa is in fact 39 per cent.
The produce is not necessarily visible to the consumer. The Forum has no label of its own. But the merchants do have one, which is how the cocoa finds its way to Fair Trade-Handel; in addition, it bears the seal of the Rainforest Alliance or UTZ. Some enterprises indicate origin with a label of their own.

Women work longer and are paid less

Women farmers do about half of the work in cocoa growing but receive less pay, and only two per cent of them own land. They work around 20 hours a week longer than men, and they spend about 90 per cent of their income on the family, mainly on food and the children’s education. Men only spend 30 per cent of their money on this.

In 2010, West Africa’s Certification Capacity Enhancement (CCE) set itself the goal of improving training for the cocoa farmers. Supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, it joined the Sustainable Cocoa Forum in 2013. Die CCE has developed a training curriculum the effects of which were appraised in the 2014/2015 season. The farmers had managed to increase their yields by up to 30 per cent. The additional yield of 120 to 200 kg/ha improved income in the magnitude of 648 to 1,080 US dollars per family and year.

“Pro-Planteurs” seeks to professionalise the sector

The Forum’s “Pro-Planteurs” strategy is aimed at professionalising cocoa farmers in the eastern and south eastern regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Young coca farmers are trained in the fields of marketing, post-harvest treatment and input supply. The second important area is the diversification of smallholdings in order to reduce dependence on cocoa growing.

The cost of training around 20,000 young farmers, amounting to five million euro, is shared equally by the Forum, the German Federal Government (the BMZ and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture) and the Ivorian government. For workshops were held in three project regions right at the beginning of the project. Twenty per cent of the more than 300 cocoa farmers who took part were women.

More information:kakaoforum

Roland Krieg, journalist, Berlin/Germany