Page 4: Sustainable cocoa supply chain
Cocoa, an essential ingredient of chocolate, is a major export crop for several West African countries. The world's two largest producers of cocoa are the Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. It is estimated that more than one million smallholder farmers in these countries are growing cocoa, to support their rural livelihoods and contribute to their respective national economies.
Small farmers in West Africa face many problems, such as pests and disease. They lack the cash to invest in growing crops. Although foreign aid in the form of donations from one country to another may be useful these tend to be helpful for only a short period.
Farmers need long-term assistance in order to create sustainable agriculture. For example:
- better planting materials
- assistance with cropmanagement techniques
- help to deal with pests
- formation of farmers' groups.
Many large food manufacturing companies within the UK are members of the BCCCA: the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Association. The chocolate and cocoa industry in the UK, and across the world, has active programmes in place to help the farmers and their families who rely on cocoa for their livelihood.
Cocoa smallholders are helped to expand their businesses, and make their farms sustainable. Farmers will enjoy a better standard of life, including a better income. Yield has increased on labour-intensive small farms and many have received help to set up co-operatives.
'Farmer Field Schools', which are 'schools without walls' and operated in partnership between the cocoa industry and civil society groups, are an example of a successful programme to help farmers improve their livelihoods. This project puts money into the family home by educating farmers on better farming techniques and promoting crop diversification.
Working through the Sustainable Tree Crops Programme (www.treecrops.org), the schools offer an 18-session course. This helps farmers to improve productivity with new agricultural knowledge and techniques. Participation is high, with entire villages turning out in some areas for the interactive sessions. The Sustainable Tree Crops Programme also supports the development of co-operatives in the Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Co-operatives help farm families to grow and market their crops more effectively, leading to 15-40% increases in farming incomes.
Trees are important as they conserve soils, conserve moisture, protect the landscape, enhance biodiversity and provide many other environmental services. Lands planted with a variety of tree species are called agroforests. Investment in research helps to create tree biodiversity and better plant species. This helps to support the continued output of cocoa and therefore farmer incomes. For example, investment in research has helped farmers to obtain better planting materials.
Chocolate manufacturers support research programmes which focus on two key aspects of sustainable cocoa production:
- The effective control of a variety of pests and diseases that affect cocoa crops.
- Support for plant breeding initiatives to ensure that growers have access to cocoa trees which allow them to grow new varieties that perform well in local environments.
Agricultural communities are supported through the provision of better facilities within village life, such as access to education, HIV education and improved health facilities. This encourages people to continue living in rural areas and discourages urban drift. Valued lifestyles are therefore continued and improved.
A programme with Winrock International works to improve access to education at the farm village level (www.winrock.org). This looks at a range of possible initiatives, from teacher training and curriculum improvements to building and expanding school facilities. These programmes share a common approach: to make improvements that are widespread and permanent.