Collaboration in Cocoa: how Nestlé and the Rainforest Alliance are improving farmer incomes

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Cocoa farms have the potential to become more productive and more regenerative, the Rainforest Alliance webinar heard. Pic: Nestle
Cocoa farms have the potential to become more productive and more regenerative, the Rainforest Alliance webinar heard. Pic: Nestle

Related tags Nestlé Chocolate Cocoa Sustainability Rainforest alliance

Nestlé’s ‘innovative income accelerator programme’ to increase cocoa farmer income and achieve full traceability in its cocoa supply chain was the subject of an informative webinar between the Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé on the importance of regenerative agriculture practices, corporate collaboration, and consumer awareness to drive long-term impact across the cocoa sector.

Nestlé and the Rainforest Alliance have been working together since 2009, when the UTZ (now Rainforest Alliance) Cocoa Certification Programme and the Nestlé Cocoa Plan were first introduced, and Rainforest Alliance is the sole certification programme now used by the chocolate company.

The Income Accelerator Programme was announced in January 2022 as an innovative approach to impact cocoa-farming families’ income. And introducing the webinar, Kerry Daroci, Cocoa Sector Lead, Markets Transformation at Rainforest Alliance, said this is one of the projects where the Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé are working on together.

Armande Laetitia Lath, an agronomist who works with the Rainforest Alliance in Cote d’Ivoire, said the farmer is facing many challenges including climate change, access to water, infrastructure problems such as access to roads and schools, along with child labour issues.

Farmers want to expand their land because they want to increase their income, grow more cocoa and this leads to expansion into protected areas​,” she said.

Daroci said there is evidence the cocoa sector has made positive progress in some of the problem areas, but it is still not enough. “There are no silver bullets, no one solution will work for everyone, and these are systemic problems that require bold decisions to create the impact and change that is needed​.”

Nestle’s Cocoa Manager, Darrell High, who devised the company’s Cocoa Plan, said the company has more than a decade of experience since the plan was launched and there is a recognition that cocoa farms have the potential to become more productive, more regenerative, and provide a better livelihood for the families that depend on them.

RA webinar rab 700

The idea behind the income accelerator programme is to improve income and tackle the root causes of child labour​,” he said.

The programme does this by providing incentivisation and support for the cocoa farming families and considers the needs of the whole household rather than the cocoa production part.

He said the four main pillars of the scheme are:

Education​ – Nestle has previously built 53 schools and helped over 159,000 children gain access to education.

Good agricultural practices​ – focuses on pruning, for example, to improve yields and incomes for the family. “Pruning is really critical, farmers are afraid to do it because it reduces the size of the tree, but it is critical because it unlocks productivity of the tree​,” he said.

Agro-forestry​ – which improves resilience of the farms to climate change, increases income, and helps to become more regenerative.

Diversification​ – this creates additional incomes for the farming family from other sources apart from cocoa and focuses on females and gender training, savings associations and alternative income training.

Nathan Bello, Nestlé Cocoa Plan Manager, said the financial incentives for the farmer include a €500 cash transfer for each household, broken down into segments such as €100 for sending a child to school; if the household is pruning one hectare – it receives another €100; another €100 for planting different trees or crops; a savings action plan is worth another €100 euros – and Bello said Nestlé tops up the scheme with a further €100 bonus.

It’s not depending on the size of the farm, so proportionally you get more for the small-holder farmer​,” he said.

The farmers receive payments digitally and Belllo said so far there has been positive feedback from the farmers, who are using less soil and labour intensive methods to increase production.

At the launch of the programme earlier this year, Nestlé said these incentives are on top of the premium introduced by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that Nestlé pays, and the premiums Nestlé offers for certified cocoa.

This cocoa is independently audited against the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, promoting the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of farmers and local communities.

Daroci said a collaborative approach highlights the success of the programme, with Nestlé having the means to implement the scheme, but it is also important to have multiple partners with different perspectives and different areas of expertise to reach the desired impact.

She said the Rainforest Alliance has been involved since early on, not only with certification but also developing the monitoring, and designing the project implementation.

In addition, said Daroci, other joint projects between the Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé include the Beki-Bossematié Landscape Project in Cote d’Ivoire, which focuses on forest protection and agroforestry, and the development of a regenerative agriculture scorecard for cocoa.

  • To see the webinar click here

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