Fairtrade International is leading a pilot project aimed at building data systems that are owned by co-operatives.
Six Ivorian cocoa co-ops are working with leaders in the agriculture digital solutions tech space, a specialised capacity-building organisation, and Fairtrade as part of the project.
With a total of 43,930 farmer members, they will be implementing an internal management system (IMS), which will collect data on members’ farms, production, and sales, and enable them to manage prominent risks such as deforestation. This will empower the co-ops to map their members’ farms and track what they buy from each farm, a process known as ‘first mile’ traceability. The move could give farmers a competitive advantage, by providing them a greater oversight of their businesses and the ability to assure buyers of how and where their cocoa is grown.
The project will also look at how IMS information can increase the co-operatives’ and their members’ ability to access bank loans. The initiative aims to ensure that co-operatives will own the data and associated benefits. Therefore, each co-operative can use their system with multiple commercial partners rather than having to use each partner’s system, or be tied to one specific commercial partner, explains Fairtrade.
“Information is power. Cocoa co-operatives have to collect and report an incredible amount of data, often into systems owned by other entities. But, more often than not, they do not receive the full benefits of that information,” says Jon Walker, senior advisor for Cocoa at Fairtrade International.
“This project is unique in that it puts the farmer and the co-operative at the centre, so they have a system that meets their own needs and they have the capacity to control and benefit from that information.”
Three of the co-operatives involved will initially be focusing on capacity building, working with partners Think! Data Services and Knowledge & Skills to prepare for the introduction of the IMS software. The other three co-operatives involved are a step further in the process and currently implementing an advanced Farmforce IMS software solution and building their capacity to use it.
Backed by a total investment of €565,000, the project is jointly funded via the Equité 2 program by Fairtrade, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), the Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM), Max Havelaar France, and the participating local co-operatives.
“We were looking for a digital solution for the development of our business, the service to our members and especially the storage of our data, when Fairtrade presented us the IMS project with Farmforce,” said Traore Ousmane, chair of the ECAKOOG co-operative. “We will have our own data available. This is a great relief for ECAKOOG and there is always hope with Fairtrade.
Fairtrade Africa will examine the lessons learnt from the pilot project with the aim to roll the project out to an additional 40 co-operatives and provide support.