CARE and Cargill’s cocoa collaboration: Transforming lives together

By Maria Hinson Tobin, Director of Development, Corporate Partnerships at CARE, David Schwebel, Community Advisor Cargill

Cargill and CARE understand the complexity of the interrelated challenges of community development, nutrition, improved livelihoods and women’s empowerment. Here they share the central lesson that they have both absorbed during their decade-long partnership to provide greater opportunity and improve the wellbeing of people in cocoa-growing communities.

As two global organizations, Cargill and CARE understand the complexity of the interrelated challenges of community development, nutrition, improved livelihoods and women’s empowerment.

But we also know the tremendous impact that can be unlocked when we work together toward shared goals: learning from one another, challenging each other’s assumptions about what’s possible, and finding new ways forward to address critical community needs.

That’s the central lesson that Cargill and CARE have absorbed during our decade-long partnership to provide greater opportunity and improve the wellbeing of people in cocoa-growing communities of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. It’s a lesson that’s had very tangible human impact.

For example, consider Elizabeth Ahou Yao, the mother of a cocoa-growing family in Côte d’Ivoire’s Aki Kouamekro community. Until recently, the 38-year-old didn’t know how to read, write or save money to help with the care and education of her four children.

Through CARE and Cargill’s comprehensive and women-centered community development programming, Elizabeth was able to learn some basic literacy and financial skills. With new knowledge and skills gained through the program, she began saving money as a member of a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).

With these savings, she was able to invest in her children’s education and start a small business growing and selling other crops, which was a safety net for her family when drought limited a recent cocoa harvest. Now, she is even employing and training other women in the VSLA, so they, too, can find greater opportunity and better care for their families.

This is the multiplier effect that occurs when we prioritize working together. Elizabeth is one among hundreds of thousands whose lives have improved through our partnership. Her story and others are detailed in a new report that gives a detailed view of the collaboration.

Our current programs place women at the heart of our interventions because we know that with the right resources, women have the power to transform entire agricultural communities. It’s a truth that both our organizations have known for quite some time.

Far-reaching impact

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana provide nearly 60% of the world’s cocoa. But although cocoa farming is the backbone of both countries’ economies, many cocoa farmers live in poverty and face critical challenges like inequality, lack of access to resources and education, and malnutrition – challenges that disproportionately affect women.

To combat the challenges faced by farmers like Elizabeth, CARE and Cargill collaborated over the last decade to improve agricultural production, increase household incomes, empower women, connect farmers to markets, improve nutrition and household wellbeing, and foster well-governed communities through an inclusive approach – one that is driven by and for communities.

The Cargill-CARE collaboration – which was driven by $9.2 million in investment from Cargill and Cargill’s customers – has created broad positive impact across cocoa-growing communities in West Africa.

For example:

  • Women in these programs in Ghana between 2016 and 2019 reported a 30% increase in participation for family financial decision-making. They also reported an 18% rise in the number of women holding community leadership positions.
  • In Côte d’Ivoire between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of food shocks in areas where programs operated was 16% lower than other communities, with some municipalities seeing a 65% drop in food shocks. And family members in these areas were 33% more likely to eat fruits and vegetables at least three times a day.
  • To date, Cargill and CARE have supported the establishment of 275 community action plans to encourage good governance, mobilize funds and address pressing needs, leading to infrastructure improvements for water, sanitation and schools.

Our joint efforts also have greatly benefited cocoa farmers’ productivity, livelihoods and market access, so these farmers and their families can build resilient, dependable businesses for the long term.

Through the Cargill Cocoa Promise, Cargill is working with 132,000 cocoa farmers in the two countries to equip them with the skills, knowledge and resources to grow cocoa in a more sustainable and profitable way. In the most recently reported year, farmers in Côte d’Ivoire who received one-on-one coaching through the Cargill Cocoa Promise achieved average yields of 567 kilograms per hectare, 61% above the baseline average of 352 kilograms.

A more productive, sustainably run cocoa farm means a better life around the home and table. It means children stay in school instead of working. And it means communities have the resources to determine their own future.

Both our organizations know that this kind of progress cannot be spurred by a single company, nonprofit, or government. Transformation requires all of us working together. And once the flywheel of progress gets spinning, its momentum is hard to stop.

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