Cote d’Ivoirian Edmond Konan heads up Global Business Consulting Company (GBCC), a partner organisation to the Rainforest Alliance in Cote d’Ivoire, working with cocoa farmers and cooperatives to support them in achieving Rainforest Alliance certification. To mark this weekend’s International Day of Cooperatives, we’ve interviewed Edmond about his work and the importance of cooperatives in today’s market. Read the rest of this entry ?
Archive for the ‘’ Category
We like chocolate in Britain! We consume nearly 10% of the chocolate produced in the world, about 10kgs per person per year. Our consumption hasn’t been checked by the economic downturn. UK retail sales have risen by 3.1 percent in 2010, according to market research firm, Mintel, following a 4.6 percent rise in 2009 and 4.4 percent in 2008. Analysts point to the role chocolate plays as a comfort food when times are tough.
Not only are we consuming more chocolate but also more cocoa in our chocolate, as sales of dark chocolate grow. Concerned about health risks associated with eating too much milk and sugar, consumers are turning to the dark chocolates in increasing number and a new group of products has established itself on the market, promoting the particular cocoa origin and the percentage of cocoa contained in the finished product. A small group of countries are recognized by the International Cocoa Organization as having “fine flavour” cocoa- varieties that are especially aromatic and particularly suitable for these specialty chocolate bars.
Another trend of course is the growth of chocolate on sale in the UK market bearing the Rainforest Alliance seal – notably Galaxy by Mars and Côte d’Or by Kraft, but other smaller brands too, such as the Chocolate Truffle Company.
As we indulge ourselves in our chocolate bars, what does this increased consumption mean for the millions of cocoa farmers and their families around the world? It’s potentially good news, as cocoa prices have held up quite strongly. They reached record levels earlier this year and although they have dipped again over the past couple of months, the prospects of a cocoa farmer being able to sustain a family from the farm are better than a few years ago when prices were much lower.
But of course, how much farmers benefit depends not only on the cocoa price but a number of other factors, most importantly the quantity and quality of the cocoa they produce. Rainforest Alliance Certified farmers receive training and support to improve not only their social and environmental management but also their agricultural practices, learning new skills and sharing their own knowledge through farmer field schools. As a result, they are able to control better the pests and diseases that attack cocoa through good management practices, without the need for using more agrochemicals. An independent survey undertaken by the International Institute of Sustainable Development of 102 Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire found that, compared to a control group on non-certified farms, the group of certified farms achieved nearly 4 percent higher average gross revenue/hectare. This resulted from nearly 7 percent higher average yields and 5 percent higher average prices. These farmers have only been certified for one or at most two years, so going forward their farm performance should continue improving.
Mr. Ouarmé ATOME, 51 years old and married with a family of five, is the owner of two cocoa farms with a total area of 6.75 hectares. He is a member of UPADI, a cooperative based in Issia in central Côte d’Ivoire. He attended the Farmer Field School training sessions that Rainforest Alliance organised in collaboration with the Sustainable Tree Crops Program, a project sponsored by the US government and the chocolate industry. The school took place in the village of N’ Gorankro and enabled Mr Atome to acquire the knowledge necessary for the good management of his cocoa farm, which was to be certified by the Rainforest Alliance. During the training, he learned new improved methods of cocoa production including integrated crop and pest management, pruning of trees, raising of seedling nurseries, and general agroforestry. Following the training on shade trees, nursery settlement and preserving the seedlings of indigenous trees, Mr. Atome was able to inter-plant new varieties among the cocoa trees in his farm and obtain approximately 4.5 tonnes of cocoa beans per yield, compared to 3.5 tonnes in the previous year.
“I am now more convinced than ever before that adopting best practice will result in higher yields and better preservation of the environment. These results will encourage my children to seriously consider going into farming as a business.”
Farmer families deciding to stay in cocoa farming, as opposed to abandoning the farm because they cannot earn a decent living, means that we will be able to go on enjoying chocolate and know that it is part of a sustainable system that conserves the environment and provides a reasonable livelihood to millions of cocoa farmers and their families.
Having looked at a coffee farming cooperatives in our last blog entry we thought it would be interesting to look at other types of cooperative the Rainforest Alliance works with. Here Edward Millard looks a the benefits of cooperatives for cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.
Cooperative organizations feature strongly in the list of small holder groups that achieve Rainforest Alliance certification. By coming together in an organization, small holder farmers can aggregate their production and achieve a better price for their product. The cooperative gives them a better alternative to the local trader because it is a service organization managed by the farmers. Whereas traders usually aim to keep the farmers ignorant of market prices so that they can pay them the minimum, the purpose of a cooperative is to keep its members informed and pay the most that the market allows. An effective cooperative offers a range of other services to its members- not just buying and selling their production, but also providing credit at reasonable interest rates, making advance payments, providing inputs such as fertilizers and facilitating training and technical assistance. An agency providing technical assistance cannot visit hundreds of farmers individually; the cooperative provides the organizing unit for helping farmers improve their skills and practices.
A vital service that cooperatives provide for certification is establishing a traceability system. Each farmer member whose farm is certified for compliance with the practices of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard receives a number and every time the farmer sells to the cooperative, the sale is recorded. The production from certified farms is stored separately from that of non-certified farms so that if it is sold on preferable terms, as it usually is, then the benefit may go back to the farmer. Companies buying the cocoa, for example, derive a great benefit from this traceability because they have the assurance that the farm practices in their supply chain are sustainable.
Rainforest Alliance has certified nearly 50 cocoa cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. One of the first to achieve certification in 2007 is the Cooperative Agricole La Paix d’Issia (COPAPAIX), situated in one of the major production zones in the west-central region of the country. Formed in 2003, it brings together 700 farmers from the surrounding villages. Mr Désire Kouassi is President of the management Committee of COPAPAIX. He says:
“In my village certain people were not on speaking terms for a long time because of arguments. But since we started working together and learning together and realizing that we can benefit from the experience of others, people have started talking together again and fraternity and solidarity have been re-established, in a situation where the traditional elders had not been able to bring us together.”