Far-reaching study by Mondelēz and Fairtrade into cocoa sector reveals serious repetition in sustainability programmes

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

The study by Fairtrade and Mondelēz calls for better partnerships, transparency, sharing of information and data. Pic: Cocoa Life
The study by Fairtrade and Mondelēz calls for better partnerships, transparency, sharing of information and data. Pic: Cocoa Life

Related tags Fairtrade international Mondelez International Cocoa Sustainability

A major new landscape study commissioned into the cocoa sector in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire by Mondelēz International’s Cocoa Life in conjunction with The Fairtrade Foundation has discovered that at least 800,000 farmers are being targeted more than once because of duplication in various sustainability initiatives.

Cocoa Sustainable Livelihoods Landscape Study: Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, is a critical review of the 92 sustainable livelihood initiatives currently operating in the West African countries, implemented by five different groups and motivated by very specific drivers.

The ultimate aim of the initiatives is to achieve sustainable livelihoods for cocoa farmers and their communities. The study, released today in a joint virtual press conference by Fairtrade and Mondelēz,  revealed that cocoa buyers, made up of chocolate manufacturers, traders and retailers, are responsible for the vast majority (42%) of initiatives.

A total of 22% of initiatives are run by multi-actors, implementers from the five groups working in partnership. Not-for-profits are responsible for 17% of the initiatives the study identified – and a total of 16 interventions delivered by certification schemes, non-governmental organisations and private foundations.

Despite a huge investment of money, farmers are still living in poverty, it’s completely obvious something isn’t working and we wanted to find out what we can do differently in the future -- Dr Louisa Cox, director of programmes, partnerships and policy at Fairtrade International

The study also identified that international donors are implementing 13% of the total, or 12 initiatives, with an equal split between government agencies and international organisations. The smallest group of implementers are the local actors, accounting for 5% of the total number of initiatives.

Dr Louisa Cox, director of impact at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Despite a huge investment of money, farmers are still living in poverty, it’s completely obvious something isn’t working and we wanted to find out what we can do differently in the future​.”

She said the study, which was carried out at the end of 2018, proved there was considerable overlap with the various sustainability initiatives. Out of 40% that provided data on farmer livelihoods, they revealed they were reaching 2.8m farmers, which is a problem because there are only an estimated 2m farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana combined.

The data of duplication in the targeting of approximately 800,00 farmers is also verified by the farmers themselves.


What’s more, the study suggests that at least 1million farmers aren’t currently being targeted because they are not located in in ‘hotspot regions ‘where cocoa quality is good or there is high productivity – and only 7% of initiatives target sharecroppers.

Sharecropping is widespread across the two countries and seen as a route into cocoa farming and an important form of land ownership, with estimates stating that as much as three quarters of cocoa production may come from sharecropped farms.

We must make partnerships work in new and better ways, ensuring we are coordinated, and we must leave no one behind. Farmers’ voices must also be at the centre in designing new initiatives​,” said Cox.

The two West African neighbours produce 60% of the world’s cocoa each year but recent studies suggest that the average cocoa farmer in these two countries lives on $1.50 or less each day.

While welcoming the various commitments from numerous chocolate companies on sustainability and living incomes for cocoa farmers, the study concludes that it comes at ‘the risk that lots of players act in an uncoordinated way​’.

The study calls for better partnerships, transparency, sharing of information and data – and more defined roles and responsibilities after it discovered a significant amount of overlap between initiatives in the region.

As the largest group of implementers, cocoa buyers have great potential to deliver effective initiatives if they are able to redirect resources and resolve the current duplication through skilful partnering and integrating the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana into their initiatives, the study suggests.

Governments can also play a crucial role in organising the sector thanks to their long-lasting relationships with farmers, and their status as critical gatekeepers to important information​,’ the authors, Antonio Capillo and Naomi Somerville-Large, write in the study’s executive summary.

One suggestion is for farmer cooperatives having an increasing a role to play in coordinating the activities of different initiatives and taking more ownership over implementation of initiatives that impact on their communities.

This is an important milestone in our partnership, and we hope it helps the sector to understand what the drivers are for a sustainable livelihood for cocoa families -- Cathy Pieters, director of Mondelēz‘s Cocoa Life

The study also calls on the sector to consider redirecting current initiatives and design future programmes to improve their support for sharecroppers, labourers and farming communities living in marginalised geographic areas.

The report’s authors say they are equally concerned that farmers consistently emphasised the need for labour to manage their farms, and yet farm labourers are also being left behind.

This is due to informal contractual protection and little recognition in farmer organisations. We also find that there is a tendency for initiatives to operate only in geographic areas where cocoa productivity and quality are higher​,’ they stated.

In their analysis they claim the practice leaves a large number of farmers from non-target areas that cannot benefit from certain initiatives, ‘despite cocoa being a national crop, putting them at a greater competitive disadvantage​’.

Deforestation​ and climate change

With so much attention paid to deforestation and climate change in the numerous sustainability programmes currently run by chocolate companies, the study will make difficult reading as farmers focus on more immediate needs such as income and infrastructures such as roads, schools and health centres.

To get this right in this area, current and future initiatives need to put in place a meaningful dialogue with cocoa farming communities to ensure that they are both aligned with what initiatives are seeking to achieve​,’ the study recommends.

 ‘It is important to note that just because there are less initiatives in a group, this does not indicate that there is less investment or activity in those initiatives than one of the bigger groups. It was unfeasible to robustly estimate the size of investment, or all possible cross connections between different initiatives, using only publicly available data​,’ the authors said.

In a key passage, the study also highlights that most initiatives are using training mechanisms to upskill farmers. Meanwhile, fewer are applying a holistic approach that takes into consideration market dynamics and the context in which farmers operate.

Cathy Pieters, director of Mondelēz‘s Cocoa Life said: “This is an important milestone in our partnership, and we hope it helps the sector to understand what the drivers are for a sustainable livelihood for cocoa families.

“A more holistic approach, is needed, putting farmers at the heart, which is aligned to Fairtrade and  Cocoa Life’s core beliefs.

“We are excited about how this work can drive change, it’s an eye-opener for the whole sector and I hope the various stakeholders take time to read it.”

Pieters said on a sustainability level the work shows an opportunity to refocus on cocoa farming households’ needs and priorities and to include voices of cocoa families “so that all of us can listen to the needs and understand them, their situations and environments so their challenges can be addressed in a relevant way​.”

First Phase

The study is the first phase with clear recommendation not only fort the sector as a whole but also for Cocoa Life and other programmes that address cocoa sustainability, she said.

Phase two will commence based on research and focussing on recommendations on how to avoid duplication, by talking to all the actors across the industry including governments carrying out censuses on its farmer communities.

We all need to come together and leverage our strengths and work on the weakness areas to become more effective -- Anne-Marie Yao, cocoa farmer

Anne-Marie Yao offered a West African cocoa farming perspective to the news conference and said the lack of coordination highlighted in the report is not helping producers.

One partner will not be able to achieve what is needed, we all need to come together and leverage our strengths and work on the weakness areas to become more effective. The final goal must be a living income for farmers, partnership is key and we appreciate this relationship with Mondelēz​,” she said.

The study suggest that if more initiatives were active in changing market structures, addressing issues such as land rights, putting in place long term contracts as source of stability as part of their sustainability initiatives or looking carefully at monetary rewards for farmers, there is a possibility for farmers to take increasing ownership of core decisions that are made in the sector and direct resources effectively towards achieving sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their communities.

Cox said she had lots of reasons to be hopeful that the study will be read and its findings picked up by the sector.

There is already a lot of energy and commitment by various stakeholders to go further and faster and to do more, so I think they will be really interested to look at this report and get behind us.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, and how it will affect West Africa, is also a good reason in itself to do things more efficiently with the resources that we do have, focussing on the farmers that are currently not served.

“Now is a good time and there is a high-level of appetite in the sector to move things up,”​ she said.

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J & G Plantation

Posted by Gary McKown,

I have a cocoa farm 100 acres in Japekrom Ghana and took 50 acres of cocoa beans to CDH Commodities Limited, which later I found out the Ghana government owns half the company, never paid me 1.8M US dollars, because it was to much money. My lawyer took them to court, sued for 8M US dollars, and still haven't been paid since July 2018. Ghana government,COCOBOD, was helping us do another harvest but then Covid-19 came, and I had to borrow 20K to finish our harvest or we would loose millions of dollars in cocoa beans rotting. Not to mention another 5K for Covid supplies for 33 people working on my farm. The 5K was also for more food for the 33 employees because my manager said COCOBOD was not bringing enough for everyone. My business partner Janet has been in Ghana, who is my fiancee, Since January 14th 2018 and I have been sending her money for food also. You talk about farmers living in poverty, what about farmers not getting paid from vendors and they took 1800 tons of cocoa beans and never paid me a dime for them yet COCOBOD is buying our 100 acre cocoa beans and the Ghana courts ordered cocobod to help us, and cocobod is suppose to pay us 8M dollars on top of our 100 acre harvest This harvest is suppose to be done end of this month or 1st week of June

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