Pre-harvest activities, in particular, are critical to boost productivity. This year, Barry Callebaut, one of the major cocoa bean suppliers to the industry, is supporting 10,000 farmers in Côoe d’Ivoire and Ghana with pre-harvest interventions by providing external labour and subsidized soil inputs.
As part of its Forever Chocolate commitment to lift more than 500,000 cocoa farmers in its supply chain out of poverty by 2025, it is supporting farmers by modernizing agriculture and cultivation methods, increasing yields, diversifying income and professionalizing farming.
“Established in 2018, our Farm Services Business is focused on supporting farmers with Farm Business Plans (FBPs), which constitute a multi-year model of the potential income a specific farm can generate if managed optimally. Providing farmers with a tailored offering is the key cornerstone of our multi-year FBPs, which present the farmers with a journey out of poverty based on their individual situation and farm profile,” it said.
The importance of pre-harvest activities
Barry Callebaut says its Farm Services business has demonstrated that increased investment into pre-harvest labour, particularly for tree pruning, as well as higher investment in the right mix and amount of soil inputs, can improve cocoa yields and lead to increased farmer income.
“For example, we found that farmers who increased pre-harvest labour to on average 350 hours per hectare thanks to a pilot project with a customer, experienced higher increases in yield in 2020/21. In comparison, farmers who invested on average less than 50 hours per hectare in pre-harvest labor, showed the lowest yield performance.”
On the downside, one of the challenges cocoa farmers face is the financial cost of pre-harvest work. Cocoa farmers in West Africa spend on average 70% of their time doing post-harvest activities and only 30% doing pre-harvest activities.
Cocoa farming in West Africa is primarily a family-operated business, and the cost of additional labour for pruning as well as soil inputs is often out of reach for farmers.
Barry Callebaut says it has adapted its Farm Business Plans to focus on two key elements: access to inputs such as fertilizers and crop protection products and additional support via external labour.
“Most farmers work on the farms themselves and cannot afford to pay anyone to help them. This is a big challenge as the average two or three hectares a farmer has are both small and big. Small to earn a decent living, but also big to work on your own, knowing there are about 1000 cocoa trees per hectare. So the question we are facing is how to drive more labour and more investment into cocoa farms when farmers usually cannot afford to do so,” said Nicolas Mounard, Barry Callebaut’s Global Sustainability and Farming Director.