Fairtrade Cocoa Programme increased co-op farmers’ resilience, figures show

The programme works to strengthen producer organisations by providing training, coaching and advice

Co-ops and other small-scale cocoa producer organisations across Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have benefited from Fairtrade’s West Africa Cocoa Programme (WACP), says a report.

Commissioned by Fairtrade International and Fairtrade Africa, and conducted by Afriqinsights, the West Africa Cocoa Programme Evaluation reveals that small-scale cocoa producer organisations are more resilient as a result of WACP. The report also argues that the WACP has delivered tangible benefits to smallholder cocoa producers through improvements in their organisations, including better organisational governance, stronger financial management, strategic planning and more active member participation.

“We are pleased with the evaluation’s findings, especially demonstrating the links between better run organisations, better informed and engaged farmer members and that these co-operatives felt empowered as businesses and that their farmer members were empowered,” said Jon Walker, Fairtrade International’s senior adviser on cocoa.

Launched in 2016, WACP was designed to strengthen producer organisations by providing training, coaching and advisory support. As part of the programme, 230 Fairtrade-certified cocoa co-ops and their farmer members received support from Fairtrade, with a subset of around 30 co-ops offered an intensive set of services to further professionalise them and increase their resilience.

“We agree with the recommendations from the WACP evaluation that more consumer brands and retailers need to engage in the voluntary implementation of the Fairtrade living income strategy, which includes the increase in yield combined with farm efficiency, long-term contracts and paying a higher price to farmers,” added Mr Walker.

According to the report, a key area of improvement from the programme was finance, with co-ops reporting improved access to banking services, thanks to stronger internal management and increased bookkeeping capacity.

Co-ops were also given agricultural training, which netted higher yields and better quality products and drove up income.

“Democratic and well-managed co-operatives are the best way to ensure farmers have a strong collective voice in trade, and also that they have the knowledge and resources to address human rights issues in their communities,” said Anne-Marie Yao, West Africa regional cocoa manager for Fairtrade Africa. “The West Africa Cocoa Programme builds farmers’ understanding of child rights and women’s equality while supporting the implementation of critical efforts like gender policies and child labour monitoring and remediation systems that have positive effects in their communities.”

But while “some advancement has been made in terms of facilitating market access for small-scale producer organisations”, the report says more progress is needed because “sustained access to Fairtrade cocoa markets is yet to be unlocked for most SPOs in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire”.

The research found that SPO members in both countries earn income from cocoa and diversification activities, although there was not enough direct evidence to determine whether households have increased their incomes ,or are making progress towards living incomes.

The report suggests connecting SPOs with chocolatiers to negotiate contracts directly and promote networking activities, supporting and encouraging farmers to increase yield in a sustainable manner including through crop diversification and encouraging consumer brands and retailers to pay the Fairtrade Living Income Reference Price and the Fairtrade Premium.

Another Fairtrade comparison study published earlier this year revealed that Fairtrade cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire have increased their incomes by 85%, from US$2,670 in 2016/17 to US$4,937 in 2020/21.