Entry: Mina Lassey, World Cocoa Foundation

The WCF Cocoa Livelihoods Program is a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 16 WCF industry members that was formed in 2009 to increase the livelihoods of approximately 200,000 West and Central African cocoa farming households. This program reaches farmers and improves their income through three main components: improving marketing efficiency, improving cocoa production efficiency and quality at the farm level, and improving famer competitiveness on diversified cocoa farms. The third goal specifically includes business and marketing training for farmers, as well as the establishment of business service centers as a resource for farmers.

WCF/CLP organized its 7th Steering Committee Meeting in Côte d’Ivoire from the 8th -9th May 2012. As part of the activities, the Program Management Unit together with the Technical Partners of the WCF/CLP organized a Field trip to Diangobo on the 7th May, 2012. Diangobo is a small community in the Abengourou district that benefitted from the WCF/CLP interventions. It is located in the Eastern Region of Côte d’Ivoire, and has a population of approximately 6,000 people. For this community, access to the local market is a particular concern as the roads are unpaved and transportation system is highly unreliable. The community depends on wells and streams for water and the local school is located in the center of the village.

The majority of the households in Diangobo depend on agriculture as the primary source of revenue. Typically, cocoa is grown on small family farms that are diversified to include food crops, such as cassava, plantain and maize. The family cultivates these food staples for personal consumption or sale at the local market. Cocoa farmers of Diangobo commercialize their beans through a coop called CADI (Cooperative Agricole de Diangobo) which was created in November 1999.

The field visit to this community included the President of WCF, Bill Guyton, the US Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, cocoa industry contributors, and technical partners.

During this exciting field visit, farmers in the CADI cooperative narrated the state of the cooperative prior to the WCF/CLP interventions. The cooperative had challenges to function properly as a result of lack of proper management, lack of proper record-keeping, low quality of cocoa beans produced, and inability of farmers to bargain for higher prices for cocoa beans produced.

WCF/CLP started its activities in the community in 2009 through its various technical partners to strengthen and professionalize CADI, train the community farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to improve the quality of their cocoa, supply farmers with improved cocoa pods as well as agricultural inputs and provide training in the correct use of the inputs. In addition, 152 of these cocoa farmers received 9,514,880 FCFA ($US 18,600) in input credit through their Farmer Organization to improve productivity of their farms. To complement the GAP training, farmers received training in business skills to manage their farms as an enterprise and diversify their crops and income sources. The program also established a Business Service Center (BSC) hosted by CropLife International thirty kilometers from Diangobo, in the main town of Abengourou, where farmers can access information on cocoa prices and marketing as well as purchase approved inputs.

Farmers were proud to share with participants that after the WCF/CLP interventions, the CADI cooperative functions very well as they have now elected management staff who oversee the activities of the cooperative; records are kept correctly and members are now in the position to bargain for higher prices. Majority of them who applied the improved practices correctly and consistently now produce better quality cocoa beans and have doubled their cocoa productivity and income levels. Farmers are also able to do a simple cost benefit analysis of cocoa and other crops, plan the yearly cropping and calculate money in / money out, as well as diversify their cropping system to include various crops which they sell for additional income.

The participants also visited a cocoa farm to see the kind of management practices that farmers apply on-farm; the proud farm owner whose name is Koffi, shared how he manages his farm, and applies improved practices and pesticides. His one and a half hectare farm which previously produced 10 bags of cocoa now produces 20 bags even without fertilizer application. He hopes to complete his building by the end of next year despite the fact that he is also supporting his three children in a secondary education.

The farmers were so grateful to the World Cocoa Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, industry contributors and all the Technical Partners (SOCODEVI, GIZ, TechnoServe, IITA/STCP and ANADER) for the interventions which have tremendously improved their livelihoods.