Innovative youth projects help cocoa thrive

Solidaridad aims to address the problem of low youth participation in the cocoa supply chain by combining business and life skills training for young entrepreneurs so they can maintain thriving cocoa farms and businesses.

Number of farmers trained


Total volume of certified cocoa (metric tonnes)



In Ghana, Solidaridad implemented a pilot curriculum for young people, funded by Unilever & ECOM Source Trust. The curriculum combines life skills and enterprise development for cocoa growing communities. Marks & Spencer and Barry Callebaut funded research into SME Development in the Cocoa Service Provision Sector in Ghana. The outcomes of these two innovations will be incorporated in the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Programme (MASO), funded by the MasterCard Foundation.

Cote d’Ivoire witnessed active engagements with CEMOI and Mondelez, culminating in the Cocoa Life project and additional funding from the Jacobs Foundation. In Brazil, Solidaridad and Cargill signed a technical agreement to promote supply chains in selected regions in the Amazon. In Guatemala, Solidaridad is implementing the Education, Leadership and Food Security programme for Q’eqchi girls and young women in the cocoa agro-ecosystem of the northern region.

Solidaridad has built a strategic approach that supports youth entrepreneurial and life skills development, leveraging its expertise across commodities and supply chain programmes.

The human-centred design approach has been piloted as an innovative tool for youth development. The landscape approach driven by cocoa supply chains in the Amazon has provided an innovative perspective for Brazil, while the rural service centre provides training, inputs and technical support, as well as demo plots incorporating integrated soil fertility management.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • Central America

    Solidaridad partnered with local CSO Community Cloudforest Conservation (CCC) to expand its WALC programme for improving gender equity, food security and nutrition in cocoa farming families in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, through women-centred agroecological education, leadership training and access to formal education.

    Read more
  • The Netherlands

    Developing life skills is a powerful tool for strengthening the (self) employment prospects and employability of the next generation in cocoa growing communities. Young people can learn to set up and run a viable business in cocoa farming or work as an entrepreneur in a cocoa growing communities.

    Read more
  • North America

    The Maso programme in Ghana, supported by the MasterCard Foundation, will train young cocoa farmers across eight districts in agricultural best practices, financial management and life skills. It will also prepare young entrepreneurs to establish cocoa-related enterprises and thus create more employment opportunities within the cocoa value chain. Solidaridad North America contributes oversight not only to the Maso programme but to the entire Youth Forward Initiative.

    Read more
  • South America

    Brazil has made progress on an environmental framework and relevant commitments for low carbon agricultural policies as agreed at COP21 in 2015. However, in order to become a reality, these commitments need to bring together public-private and civil society partnerships. Solidaridad is taking on this role, engaging with the environmental public sector to structure an upscaling of the smallholder production model for zero-deforestation and forest code compliance.

    Read more
  • West Africa

    Solidaridad West Africa continued to work with supply chain stakeholders and engage them in innovative solutions to improve production, processing and trade, ensuring a transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy that maximizes benefit for all. Solidaridad is implementing a number of cocoa programmes in partnership with private cocoa industry companies, government and other stakeholders in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.

    Read more


Global cocoa supply chain actors are investing in their own programmes and quality systems to secure sustainable cocoa supply as an output that goes beyond certification. Cocoa Action has been established by its 11 core members to sustain cocoa supply and improve the livelihoods of farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. By 2020, Cocoa Action intends to train cocoa farmers and deliver improved planting material and fertilizer, as well as empower communities through education, guarding against child labour and raising the status of women.

Youth participation in the cocoa supply chain is minimal as the sector is not seen as economically and socially attractive. Producer countries increasingly view this as a threat to their future supply base. Governments have responded by prioritizing the active involvement of youth within the cocoa supply chain as service providers and producers. In Ghana, COCOBOD has initiated its youth in cocoa farming programme in a number of cocoa growing communities.

Because of bad weather and other setbacks, Ghana has been unable to meet its 1 million metric tonne project target. This has impacted supply chain actors within the region.

ICCO recognizes Guatemala as a fine cocoa supplier. Through the various partnerships, Solidaridad is harmonizing its programmes with the private sector and governments. Solidaridad is also working with Cocoa Action partners to support Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire’s national cocoa sustainability agenda.

Programme investments in thousand euros


Contracted partners per region excluding producer organizations



In 2015, our partners included Cargill, Pará government, Novo Repartimento municipality, the National Institute of Land Reform and colonization in Brazil, Touton, Mondelez, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, ECOM, Mastercard Foundation, IDH, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Ghana and the Dutch embassy in Ghana. New strategic partners include the Government of Brazil, Unilever, Marks & Spencer, CEMOI, Mastercard Foundation, Ashesi University and Aflatoun.

We implemented a pilot project on youth life skills and entrepreneurship development in cocoa regions, research on small business opportunities in Ghana and other projects in West Africa, Brazil and Latin America. The outcomes of some of these interventions will be updated for the MASO project and shared with industry partners. Marks & Spencer is developing a new partnership with Solidaridad which is the first of its kind for a retailer. In Cote d’Ivoire, Solidaridad is implementing a three-year cocoa life project with Mondelez, which culminated in a joint effort to secure funding from the Jacobs Foundation. Solidaridad in Central America co-ordinated several meetings with stakeholders to discuss the National Strategy of Cocoa in Guatemala and partnered with CSOs such as SNV to provide technical assistance and training to associations in Nicaragua.

Knowledge development activities included:

  • Cocoa Barometer 2015
  • Research on small business development
  • Impact evaluation of UTZ cocoa certification in Ghana
  • Ghana Cocoa Platform study on Assessment of Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts of Mining
  • World Bank Scenario Planning Workshop on Ghana Cocoa Sector
  • WCF research on Input Delivery Strategies and Recommendations

Solidaridad brought expertise to the following multi-stakeholder initiatives:

  • ICCO Consultation Board
  • Facilitated Forest, Agriculture and Climate Coalitions in Brazil
  • Dutch Cocoa Working Group
  • German cocoa platform (GISCO)
  • CCE Curriculum
  • VSS - UTZ Certified - improvement of the cocoa standard and implementation (UTZ advisory board)
  • CEN/ISO process toward a new standard for sustainable cocoa


The general decline in cocoa productivity in Ghana was a major concern for key stakeholders in the supply chain. Solidaridad is using the implementation of the RSC model as an established basis for evidence-based innovation to ensure improved yields can be sustained in the future. As mainstream funding declines globally, the need to look for innovative ways of working with impact investors has become critical. There is also a lack of national and regional strategies by Central American governments to support the cocoa value chain.

Cocoa Action, a strategy framework aligned between the nine largest multinationals in the sector, is a welcome development. However, the number of farmers the plan is aiming to reach is a small fraction of all of the cocoa farmers in West Africa, many of whom are already being reached through current Cocoa Action members in their own programmes.

We will work strategically with governments to develop interventions in sustainable landscapes that integrate supply chain development, as well as inclusive sustainable landscape programmes, impact investments, youth development and improvements to livelihood in the cocoa industry in West Africa, Central and South America.

Suzan-Hermina Yemidi

International Programme Coordinator, Cocoa