Is data the currency of success in cocoa supply chain transparency?

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Who owns the data data in the cocoa supply chain? Pic: Sourcemap
Who owns the data data in the cocoa supply chain? Pic: Sourcemap

Related tags Chocoa 2021 Cocoa Data

Following recent news that The European Union will contribute €25m to boost the sustainability of cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon, the first session at this year’s Chocoa21 conference, held online from Amsterdam, could turn out to be one of the most important as it focussed on how data can play a crucial role in digitization an supply chain transparency.

While data is necessary to measure the impact of projects and can, when used properly, contribute to greater transparency, is it ‘King’ the panel were asked.

In terms of the new EU investment in West Africa, data sharing is critical, and will surely play a central role if the cash is going to significantly improve the ability of farmers' cooperatives and other bodies that represent local communities.

Robust and transparent

Robust and transparent data will be needed to train farmers on sustainability, tree replacement, reforestation and ensure their awareness of child labour regulations.

Several private sectors and government initiatives have already started making use of digital tools to provide transparency in the cocoa supply chain, but with so much data being collected by individual companies and organisations, is it not better to have some kind of joint monitoring of the supply chain for the collective good, to make sure all cocoa coming out of the region is sustainably sourced?

A real insight into what is actually happening on the ground in certain areas is still lacking, Chocoa21 was told.

In a press statement announcing the EU investment, Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships, said: “European consumers are demanding fair and environmentally sustainable products and producing countries committed to address sustainability issues in their cocoa value chains. It is time to make a real change and the EU is committed to play its part as an honest broker between economic operators, development partners, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon​.” 

Panellist Megan Passey (Head of Knowledge and Learning at International Cocoa Initiative [ICI]) gave examples of how its engagement along the cocoa supply chain is established through the setting-up and management of Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS), which is  embedded in the supply chain of chocolate and cocoa companies, and can identify and remediate cases of child labour.

Once the system has identified a child at risk, they are entitled to support, or should receive support, to improve the situation and prevent the situation from arising again. The child’s progress is followed up until they have stopped engaging in child labour and no longer considered at risk​,” Passey said.

Suzanne Uittenbogaard (Sustainable Value Chain Manager at Cargill) said data plays a pivotal role in the company’s operations and through its new CocoaWise digital portal it has now increased knowledge and shareability into the origin of the products they source from Cargill’s direct supply chain.

But she warned the conference: “The technology should serve the people and not the other way around​.”

It was a message echoed by Michael Chrisment, CEO, Farmer Connect, who said: “Data isn’t king, data is by the people for the people​.”

One of the unanswered questions from the panel was who owns the data? The cocoa companies? There were strong arguments that the data should be owned by the farmers.

Friedel Hütz-Adams (Senior Researcher at SÜDWIND INSTITUT) said there’s evidence that the size of farms in Ghana has been thrown into doubt through more robust data coming through, and they could be much smaller than originally thought, making previous data for that region circumspect.

He said data is not king, but it is very important, and said a solution for reducing and ending child labour would be to create platforms for anonymous data sharing.

As the EU continues its inclusive dialogue on sustainable cocoa, with its 'Cocoa Talks’, including the participation of EU, public and private stakeholders, and selected representatives of the two main countries, accurate data is going to be crucial if the objective of the dialogue is to enhance cooperation and coordination to support sustainable cocoa production in West Africa.

How that data is managed, collected, and shared by the interested parties remains to be seen.

Related topics Editor's Blog Cocoa Sustainability

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1 comment

J & G Plantation

Posted by Gary McKown,

I own a 100 acre cocoa farm did a harvest July 2018 never got paid and sued for 8M.
Ghana courts awarded the lawsuit, only if I do a 100 acre harvest, Cocobod will help me, food water etc, taxes were waived for 2019 and 2020.
We did this harvest on August 2020, and today is March 1 2021 and I still haven't been paid my $8M lawsuit, and my harvest $6.5M.
Since July 2018 I have 34 workers waiting to get paid, and many many bills.
You call this transparency, unity, helping the community, honest, helping farmers?
This is how Ghana does business, and it's not fair to farmers.
All my taxes are paid in full.
If they weren't I wouldn't be here right now
Right now I have a Professor from a well known University in Ghana helping my lawyer get our money. Then been working around their schedules since Feb 1 2021

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