Wednesday May 27 2020
I am really pleased to announce that, this week, we’ve launched our Cocoa Sustainable Livelihoods Landscape Study. Co-authored by Naomi Somerville-Large and Antonio Capillo at the Fairtrade Foundation, this study is published as part of our partnership with Cocoa Life - Mondelēz International’s global cocoa sustainability programme.
This is a groundbreaking piece of research which maps 92 different sustainable livelihood initiatives in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and offers a critical analysis of them. We found three main issues which - if addressed - could bring about a real step change for farmers.
- We must make partnerships work in new and better ways. At present, there is considerable overlap between livelihood initiatives, with many focusing on the same farmer groups but without any overall coordination. We spoke to the initiatives which collect data (about 40% of them), and they told us that they’ve engaged with 2.8 million cocoa farmers. But in fact, there are only 2 million cocoa farmers in West Africa: so, on the face of it, at least 800,000 farmers are being targeted by more than one programme because there’s a lack of coordination. This is a waste of valuable time and resources, and that’s why we are calling for current and future initiatives to work together to be more effective and impactful. We need to create a more holistic sectoral approach: no single initiative alone can achieve the scale of change that is needed.
- We must improve support for farmers who are being left behind. Between 1 and 1.7 million farmers are not being reached at all by existing initiatives because they tend to focus on regions that produce the best quality, or largest quantities of cocoa. So, farmers in less productive regions (for example, where there is poor soil health or diseased trees) are simply being left out. We need to consider how they could be supported in other ways: for example, they could be helped to diversify their incomes so that they are not so reliant on cocoa, giving them an opportunity to climb out of poverty. This is going to be even more important as we see the impact of Covid-19, because farmers who are currently excluded from livelihood initiatives will find it even harder to continue to harvest and sell their cocoa and could be at serious risk of destitution and starvation.
- New initiatives must be designed in close collaboration with farmers, placing their voice front and centre. We found a real misalignment between what farmers say are their priorities, and what initiatives are emphasising. One example is that when interviewed, farmers prioritised the short term need to improve their income and local infrastructure. In contrast, many sustainability initiatives are focusing on climate change reduction. It’s not that farmers aren’t well aware of, and want to address, the devastating effects of climate change on their harvests – it’s simply that this concern was outweighed for them by more pressing issues facing them in the here and now. So, close dialogue with farmers is going to be crucial if initiatives are to be successful. There is no average cocoa farmer. We need to understand the real challenges and constraints that they face if we are to make a difference.
I strongly urge others to join Mondelez in implementing these changes. In light of COVID-19, and the likely impact that it is going to have in West Africa, we need a full sector response now more than ever if we are to stand a fighting chance of shoring up farmer’s livelihoods and giving them the resilience to trade through the crisis.