Category Archives: Côte d’Ivoire

Securing a living income for cocoa farmers

For many of us chocolate is a treat, for some even a guilty pleasure and for many something we take for granted. But what about the cocoa farmers, who are producing the key ingredient, what is the impact it has on their lives? Is cocoa providing them and their families with a living income?

This year’s cocoa barometer highlighted that despite the fact that cocoa farmers were growing a product in great demand that grows only in a small part of the world, many cocoa farmers live in poverty. So, what can be done?

Better farming, better future.

M. Fofana Danon- Cocoa Farmer - Cooperative CINPA -Agboville - Cote d'Ivoire in October 2013At UTZ we believe that by supporting farmers to implement good agricultural practices they are able to increase their productivity, helping them increase their income, and helping them to increase the entrepreneurial skills which can help them access new markets. This leads to positive outcomes for the farmer and their families.

An independent study of UTZ Certified cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire published in 2014 found that 82 percent of UTZ farmers saw their living conditions improve through increased income, and more than half of them use their increased income for their children’s education.

The trend towards sustainably produced cocoa is rising continuously, which is good news for UTZ Certified farmers, in 2014 UTZ sustainable cocoa was enough to produce nearly 10 billion (sustainable) bars of chocolate. Major chocolate companies have made commitments to go 100% sustainable in their cocoa supply in the next 5 to 10 years.   These are all positive steps, but the reality remains that for many cocoa farmers they are still earning barely enough money to survive. Let alone to pay their workers a living wage or earn an income that allows them to afford the basic standards of living including housing, food and education.

A living wage or income

The Cocoa Barometer demonstrated that much more needs to be done, from the governments in producer countries, by the industry – as well as by us.

An important element to further expand our positive impact, is the definition of a living wage for workers and living income for farmers. A living income is crucial for cocoa farmers in order to ensure they earn enough to be able to afford a basic standard of living to include:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • A small amount of savings for when the unexpected happens
  • And for farmers enough income to be able to invest in their farms for the longer term security.

We at UTZ have been working with the other sustainability standards on a key step in ensuring a living wage / income becomes a reality for farmers worldwide. Working with farmer’s organisations, researchers and based on a method of calculation devised by economists Richard and Martha Anker, the living wage benchmark takes into account the actual costs of food, health care, housing, education, transport and a small amount of savings in order to allow workers to be prepared for the unexpected.  The calculation takes into account that in some cases agricultural workers will receive in kind payments in the guise of housing or other benefits, and calculates by region and sector an actual living wage.

This is important as it will enable us to show where a living wage is not being paid, and therefore where additional actions need to be taken either at a local, regional, national or company level.

Cinpa farmers in Agboville

In addition, our recently revised code includes taking steps towards the payment of a living wage – when this is greater than a minimum wage. The new code requires that employers take steps to improve worker wages in line with local living wage levels. Here we require a comparison between the workers remuneration, including cash and in-kind wages, with living wage estimates provided by UTZ based on the benchmarks. Where wages are below living wage, steps should be taken to increase wages towards living wage levels over time.

For cocoa farmers, many of whom are not workers but independent farmers this is also an important step, as the living wage levels will also demonstrate where an income is less than enough to live on.

We are working with the cocoa farmers to ensure a better future, but we all need to play our part, what will you do to ensure cocoa farmers earn enough to live on?

Meet the farmers : Sharing stories from Côte D’Ivoire, part 5.

Silue Bakary is part of the COOPAGA cooperative in Gabiadji, Côte D’Ivoire. Siriki Diakité hears his story.

Siriki Diakité: Hi Bakary. Did you grow up here in Gabiadji?

SiluŽ bakary de Coopaga-Cefa ˆ GabiadjiSilue Bakary: My family and I are from Soubre originally, but I came here so that I could have my own plantation.

Can you tell me about your farm?

I have a cocoa plantation of five hectares, and I’ve been in the UTZ program for five years. Next to that I also grow rice, maize and cassava.

I’m also involved in the cooperative. I’m part of the spraying team. We have special training and personal protection equipment, so we apply pesticides when necessary for different farmers in the community, always being careful to keep a safe distance from protected areas like rivers and settlements. Before UTZ, it was done in a way that was dangerous for children.

And what kind of changes have you seen on your farm?

Before, I was not reaching 2.5 tons but now I reach 3 tons. The farmer field schools have changed the way I manage the plantation. Before, we did not prune the cocoa trees, we just watched the leaves and we were happy. But when it rained, brown rot invaded all the planting and the harvest was lost each time. It is only today that we are doing real cocoa farming. By pruning the trees, we make sure more air can circulate through the plantation. So, we find fewer brown rot problems and there has been a big change in production.

What did that mean for your income?

The premium we get with our UTZ certified cocoa is like a breath of fresh air that comes to relieve our costs and meet other needs, like investing for the future. With the premium I could start my home construction project, a dream I have always had but did not have the means to achieve.

Do you have a big family? Have they seen any changes in the last 5 years?

I have 4 children and all of them go to school, thanks to the project and premium.

In fact, the project helps us a lot in the education of our children, and in health care. Through the project, we have the college at the cooperative, which allows us to educate our children here on site and no longer have to send them to the city. And in my spare time I can sit together with my children and read with them. We like to read the bible together and discuss the verses.

There is also a health center that allows us to take care of people here in the village, and an ambulance to evacuate our patients in an emergency. As a parent that gives a lot of peace of mind.

Meet the farmers: sharing stories from Côte D’Ivoire, part 4.

Diomanadé Adama is part of the COOPAGA cooperative, one of the first two cooperatives to join the UTZ program in 2009. Siriki Diakite met him and his father, Diomanadé Moussa.

Siriki Diakite: Hi Adama. I see you’re here with your father. Do you work together on the farm?

?????????????????????????????????????????My father joined the cooperative back in 2002, and he was one of the very first to join the UTZ certification program. He doesn’t have the strength to work anymore, so my brother and I took over the plantation. But he still comes to check on the farm sometimes!

And do you have a family of your own now?

Yes, I’m married and I have four children. Because of the UTZ program I send them to school, and that’s a good feeling. I never had the chance to go to school, we didn’t have enough money back then.

Did you always want to be a cocoa farmer?

For a while I wanted to be a truck driver, and my father always encouraged me with that, but the problem is that vehicles have such high maintenance costs. So I decided to come back to cocoa farming. After all, that’s what I know best – I’ve always been involved in the family business. And as well as cocoa we also now grow rice, corn, okra and eggplants.

And what kind of changes have you seen from being in the UTZ program?

A big change is in the amount of cocoa we can harvest. Now, we get up to 3 tons or even more. Before, we harvested a lot less. That’s because of the field schools where we find out the best ways to do pruning, weeding and harvesting. The project has brought us many things.

DIOMAMANDE ADAMA-Coopaga-Cefa cooperative

Meet the farmers: sharing stories from Côte D’Ivoire, part 3.

Kouassi Kouamé is part of the CAFHS Cooperative. Siriki Diakité hears his story.

Siriki Diakité: Hi Kouamé, how long have you worked with cocoa?

Kouassi KouamŽ- Cooperative CAFHS in DaloaKouassi Kouamé: I have always worked with cocoa. For 20 years already! My parents, my two brothers are cocoa farmers too. It’s what we do. I have two cocoa plantations of two hectares each. But aside from cocoa, I also grow vegetables: cabbages and tomatoes.

What do you like about the UTZ program?

What I like most is the field schools. We do a lot there. I learnt about the best way to prune the cocoa tree, leaving only two or three main stems and removing dead branches. This and other things I learnt there showed me how to work to get good productivity, and it’s through this productivity that I am able to get a higher income and make other achievements.

Have there been any other changes?

Before, we planted the regular cocoa, the Ghana variety, which had low productivity. And we used to plant it all over the place, in every direction. Now we use the CNRA variety, and we plant it in lines, and productivity is better.

The program also helped with safety. Before, we sprayed the pesticides ourselves without personal protection equipment. Now this is done by spraying teams from the cooperative, and only approved products sent by the cooperative are used.

What does all this mean for your family?

Thanks to the UTZ program, I make profits. This helped me build my house and send my children to school. My biggest source of satisfaction is my home.

I can also put money in a bank account and save up, then withdraw money when necessary. For example, this means that I can enroll my children in school on time. Before, the children sometimes returned to school late because we had to wait for new money to come in to get the children to school.

I work hard in the fields, but outside of that I take some time to rest. I’m part of a local society, where I meet and share with other people. I also like listening to the radio anKouassi KouamŽ- Cooperative CAFHS in Daload watching TV.

Meet the farmers: sharing stories from Côte D’Ivoire, part 2.

Cooperative CAFHS in DaloaThis is the first in a series of interviews with cocoa farmers from Côte D’Ivoire. Nick is one of 1336 UTZ certified farmers in the CAFHS cooperative, which was one of the first two cooperatives in the UTZ program five years ago. Our representative in Côte D’Ivoire, Siriki Diakité, hears his story.

Siriki Diakité: Hi Nick, nice to meet you! Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Kouassi N’Guessan Nick: I live about 12km from Daloa, where I work with my brother on our cocoa plantation of around 4 hectares. But that’s not the only thing I do! I also grow vegetables, like tomatoes. And through the profits from cocoa I made two fish ponds, of 40 by 25 meters each. My next plan is to build a farm for chickens. If business is good, I want to start it this year. And aside from all that, I love football! I like to organize football tournaments and my favorite team is Chelsea.

You said you work with your brother – does all your family work in cocoa?

In my family, we have always had cocoa – my father was a cocoa farmer, and so was his father before that. But not all my family is in cocoa. Through the profits we have made, two of my brothers carried on their education after school. One of my brothers is in his second year studying law at the university in Abidjan, and the other is already working as a policeman.

What kind of changes have you seen since joining the UTZ program?

Many! Since we are in the project the cocoa farm has produced more: we had 1.2 tons in 2011-2012, and then 1.825 tons in 2013-2014. In this way the UTZ program allowed me to build my house! And it also means we can afford gas for cooking.

That’s Cooperative CAFHS in Daloabecause of what I learned at training and the field schools. I always kept the plantation clean and tidy, but I learned that we must also cut the shoots, cut the dead branches, and rid the fields of any diseased pods for the field to produce well.

My trees date from 1998. As those trees stop producing I am replacing them with the improved variety CNRA, which is more productive. Before going into the project, I did not know about the different varieties.

And of course the first positive result of the program is the premium.

How could things be improved for cocoa farmers in Côte D’Ivoire?

I think it is very important that small producer groups are helped to get income in many ways, not only through cocoa but through income diversification projects such as market gardening. To do this, it would help farmers if they had more access to inputs like fertilizers.

It would also help me a lot if the road was improved leading to our farm, so that we can take the cocoa to the cooperative more easily.

What does the future hold?

If I make a little more money, I plan to install a solar panel to illuminate the camp and watch television to follow the news.

Cooperative CAFHS in Daloa

Celebrating five years of UTZ certified cocoa

Meet the farmers: sharing stories from Cote D’Ivoire, part 1.

Since UTZ Certified launched its program for sustainable cocoa five years ago, it has grown to include more than 336,000 farmers, across 16 countries. That means real, tangible benefits: higher yields, bigger incomes and better living conditions for farmers and their families.

The cocoa these farmers produce is enjoyed all over the world. You can buy chocolate products with the UTZ name or logo in 111 countries. And enough cocoa has been sold as UTZ certified to make more than 20 billion chocolate bars!

It all began back in 2009, when the program was launched in partnership with Ahold, Cargill, Ecom, Heinz Benelux, Mars, Nestlé and NGOs Solidaridad, Oxfam Novib and WWF. Back then, there were just two cooperatives in the program, in the world’s largest cocoa producing country: Côte D’Ivoire.

Our field representative in Côte D’Ivoire, Siriki Diakité, visited the cooperatives and met with some of the farmers to find out what kind of changes have they seen over the last five years. Over the next few days we will be sharing their stories.

Cooperative ECASO in Ivory Coast

2014: International Year of Family Farming

The United Nations has made 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. Around 500 million people worldwide directly depend on family farming for their livelihoods, and family farmers are responsible for more than half of all global agricultural production.

The photographs below offer an insight into the lives of UTZ certified cocoa farmers from Côte d’Ivoire, where there are many thousands of small family run cocoa farms. Most UTZ certified cocoa comes from farms that are smaller than two hectares.

Cocoa farming faces many challenges – which you can read about in our previous blogs – but sustainability programs like UTZ Certified have a big role to play in enabling farmers to create better opportunities for themselves and their children.

Click on the photos to open a slideshow and find out more about family farming in Côte d’Ivoire.

All photos taken by Nabil Zorkot. Copyright UTZ Certified.