Cocoa programme creates stronger cooperatives

BY: Graphic Business
 Fairtrade's West Africa Cocoa Programme seeks to build strong and viable producer organisations

Fairtrade’s West Africa Cocoa Programme (WACP), has created stronger cooperatives among participating producers, a new report has said.

Specifically, it said small-scale cocoa producer organisations across Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are more resilient as businesses and better attuned to their members’ needs, all as a result of the WACP.

A media statement said an evaluation of the WACP commissioned by Fairtrade International (FI) and Fairtrade Africa and conducted by Afriqinsights, a pan-African primary market research and consulting firm, indicate that the WACP has delivered tangible benefits to small-holder cocoa producers through improvements in their organisations, including better organisational governance, stronger financial management, strategic planning and more active member participation.

“We are pleased with the evaluation’s findings, especially demonstrating the links between better run organisations, better informed and engaged farmer members and that these cooperatives felt empowered as businesses and that their farmer members were empowered,” FI Senior Adviser on Cocoa, Mr Jon Walker said.

WACP

Fairtrade launched the WACP in 2016 which seeks to build strong and viable producer organisations that are responsive to their members’ and business partners’ needs. The Programme provides training, coaching and advisory support to the more than 230 Fairtrade certified cocoa cooperatives and their farmer members.

As part of the Programme, a subset of around 30 cooperatives received an intensive set of services designed to further professionalise them as businesses and increase resilience.

Fairtrade and its affiliated organisations around the world have long maintained that well-managed and democratically run producer organisations are better placed to build long-term relationships with commercial partners, leading to sustained access to Fairtrade markets, increased farmer household incomes and overall progress towards living incomes.

In addition, stronger organisations typically have more ability to invest in infrastructure or climate-smart agricultural practices, and can potentially provide support to farmers to improve cocoa quality, among other things.

“We agree with the recommendations from the WACP evaluation that more consumer brands and retailers need to engage in the voluntary implementation of the Fairtrade living income strategy, which includes the increase in yield and farm efficiency, long-term contracts and paying a higher price to farmers,” Mr Walker said, adding that some leading brands were already implementing aspects of this strategy.

For its part, the WACP evaluation yielded initial positive results pointing to the success of the Programme and the beneficial effects it has had on participating organisations.

For instance, cooperatives reported improvements in financial health, such as having internal management systems and stronger finance and bookkeeping capacity, which has improved access to banking services. Training on good agricultural practices has also resulted in higher yields and better quality, both of which increase incomes.

“Democratic and well-managed cooperatives are the best way to ensure farmers have a strong collective voice in trade, and also that they have the knowledge and resources to address human rights issues in their communities,” affirmed Anne-Marie Yao, West Africa Regional Cocoa Manager for Fairtrade Africa.

“The West Africa Cocoa Programme builds farmers’ understanding of child rights and women ’s equality while also supporting the implementation of critical efforts like gender policies and child labour monitoring and remediation systems that have positive effects in their communities,” she added.

The WACP report comes just months after a new study of Fairtrade cocoa farmers’ household incomes in Côte d’Ivoire revealed boosted incomes and lower incidences of extreme poverty. The comparison study, conducted on behalf of Fairtrade surveyed 384 farmers from 16 Fairtrade certified cocoa cooperatives. It found that household incomes had increased by 85 per cent compared to a study of the same cooperatives four years earlier.