A study by the French Development Agency and Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut has found most cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire remain in conditions far below the poverty line.
Workers within the country have an average pay of 568 West African Francs, equating to around 0.86 Euros per day.
According to the agency’s study, this is the direct result of low cocoa yields, on average 435 kg/ha, on already relatively small cocoa farms. On top of that, many of the cocoa trees in Côte d’Ivoire are old and beyond their most fertile age. Plant diseases, such as stem borer, swollen shoots virus (CSSV) and mirid bugs add further to the low productivity.
In response, Barry Callebaut has launched its Forever Chocolate sustainability programme (see February’s edition of Kennedy’s Confection for a full interview on the subject), which aims to help lift 500,000 farmers out of poverty by 2025.
The project coincides with other work from major companies including global ingredients business, Cargill, which has launched an initiative in Côte d’Ivoire to tackle child labour that remains a significant issue within the country.
As part of the company’s bid to address the issue through its Cocoa Promise and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), it has launched a pilot scheme aimed at 7,000 cocoa farming households to identify and respond to incidences of child labour and put in place appropriate action.
Taco Terheijden, Sustainability Director of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate said: “We recognize that we cannot tackle child labour in cocoa-farming communities on our own. Working alongside technical experts like the ICI helps us learn how to take a labour-monitoring system to scale in a complex, smallholder agricultural supply chain.”
In terms of the French Development Agency study on poverty, it showed that basic socioeconomic infrastructure such as primary schools, primary health care and drinking water is often not present in cocoa farming communities. Despite such conditions, farmers do not envisage giving up their crops, with the main reason for not adopting better agricultural practices being the lack of means.
The survey was carried out in 2013-2014 on more than 700 cocoa farmers and their plots in Côte d’Ivoire. Bruno Leclerc, AFD country manager in Côte d’Ivoire said: “Data and statistics on cocoa farmers’ well-being, yields, access to finance, diseases and agricultural practices are scarce, which is a serious constraint to the efficient design and implementation of programs and actions for better cocoa sustainability”.
The barriers to yield improvements are reportedly the insufficient use of fertilisers, including organic fertilizers due to insufficient financial means and the lack of access to finance.
In addition and of particular relevance in Côte d’Ivoire where trees are old and highly affected by diseases, the requirement to replant cocoa trees with the optimal planting material is often postponed due to a lack of knowledge of best management practices.
Nicko Debenham, Head of Sustainability at Barry Callebaut commented: “The results of this study show that Barry Callebaut’s approach to lifting cocoa farmers out of poverty by focusing on yield improvement is the right approach. Nevertheless, it also underlines the size of the challenge and the necessity to work with governments to create the right socioeconomic infrastructure and access to finance and inputs”.
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