In Ghana, 4,758 young men and women graduated from Solidaridad’s cocoa academy and entrepreneurial development training programme. Solidaridad piloted efficient service delivery models under the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme to improve farmers’ access to services. Average cocoa farm productivity was 1.0-1.5 tonnes/ha compared with a baseline productivity of 400-600kg/ha.
In Cote D’Ivoire, Solidaridad supported the development of 17 Community Action Plans for over 150 communities. This helped build the capacity of 25 Community Development Committees to identify priorities and lead engagement with local authorities and key stakeholders to implement them. More than 600 women engaged in cassava production on 47.75 ha of land. In addition, 275 Village Savings and Loans Associations were established, benefiting more than 6,454 women. Around 130,000 forest seedlings were produced and 15 ha of community woodlots developed.
As part of our efforts to establish Solidaridad as a preferred partner, staff received training in farm development plans and adoption observation under a partnership with Mars Inc. Solidaridad was able to provide the first three master trainers within the ECOWAS sub-region.
In Guatemala, 125 young women took part in a women-only leadership training programme that included education and practical training in agro-ecology and cloud-forest conservation.
As part of Solidaridad’s campaign to promote sustainable digital solutions, the Solidaridad Farming Solution app was introduced in Brazil to support and scale up farm management and reinforce environmental responsibility in South American cocoa farming. Solidaridad’s suite of digital tools for farmers, D3S, in Ghana has reached over 600 farmers with its Voto-Mobile sustainability tool in the MASO and Kokopa programmes. The next target for D3S in Ghana is to extend the Voto-Mobile sustainability tool to recruit 10,000 farmers for the Farming Solution app by 2020.
On the policy front, Solidaridad has been active in engaging public-private partnerships in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It partnered with the Forestry Commission of Ghana to develop the Tree Tenure Form that will give farmers full ownership and control of timber that they plant on cocoa farms. Solidaridad is also consulting with traditional councils to modernize the age-old land tenure systems. This will help to overhaul and rehabilitate the cocoa sector.
In 2017, West Africa was able to raise over 20 million euros from the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The European Union in Liberia and the World Bank in Ghana to implement various programmes in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Over the next four years, Solidaridad aims to support the professionalization of the cocoa sector, create employment opportunities for young people and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their communities.
Regional Commodity Programmes
Demand for cocoa from Mesoamerica, the potential of cocoa agroforestry systems to support sustainable landscapes, and job creation for women and youth, have stimulated investment strategies for cocoa production and value-addition across the region. In Honduras and Nicaragua, Solidaridad invests in best practices, access to improved varieties and technologies, and the development of investment models to facilitate sustainable growth. In Guatemala, Solidaridad supports young Q’eqchi women through the Women in Agroecology Leadership and Conservation Programme.
Solidaridad’s intervention to incubate a deforestation-free business model for smallholder agriculture in the Brazilian Amazon has accelerated during its third year. Solidaridad completed tests on a carbon balance tool adapted to the Amazon farmer profile. This will provide data on specific emission factors to guide public policies and investments on low-carbon systems. Meanwhile, Solidaridad began the search for market partners at Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, the Chocoa Festival and the Alliance for Amazon Restoration.
Attention was given to the promotion of climate-smart agriculture and empowering women and youth through training on entrepreneurial skills and community development. Solidaridad has positioned itself as a credible partner in the policy development space. A pilot group of farmers was introduced to the use of digital technologies to learn about and adopt good agricultural and business practices through interactive voice responses using the Voto Mobile platform.
Economic growth in most West African countries has been too weak to allow for significant progress in reducing poverty. Farmers and firms trade in highly localized markets and do not achieve sufficient economy of scale to attract broad-based investments that could accelerate growth and help reduce poverty. Solidaridad witnessed challenges in the cocoa sector, caused by global price reductions, that compound this problem.
While Cote D’Ivoire took a firm stance by reducing farm-gate prices for farmers, the government of Ghana promised to maintain farm-gate prices through a hedging programme in 2017 but has since reversed this decision in response to challenges in the domestic economy.
In Brazil, cocoa prices fell by 27% year-on-year, while the volume of production increased by 3%. These developments indicate a dire situation for the cocoa sector in 2018 which will require special attention. Despite the challenges, the political climate across West Africa was relatively stable and Solidaridad strengthened its relationships with stakeholders to support its operations in the cocoa sector.
The cocoa programme has continued to maintain high-level partnerships with industry-wide actors such as IDH, WCF and ICI on one side and the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs and regional government agencies – Cocobod in Ghana and CC in Cote D’Ivoire – on the other.
In line with its vision, Solidaridad also developed new partnerships with the financial sector with the aim of developing viable business cases to attract investment. Solidaridad built partnerships with IT companies to support the roll-out of sustainable digital solutions. It also developed partnerships with retail brands and non-conventional donors within and outside the sector, and with donors such as the European Union and the World Bank.
Strong alliances have also been forged with the Prince of Wales Cocoa Forest Initiative, which works with IDH and WCF to reduce deforestation in Ghana.
The fall in the global price of cocoa has been a major challenge. It exacerbated the difficulties faced by the sector such as low productivity (mainly in West Africa) resulting from disease and pests, poor soil fertility, ageing farmers and trees, low rainfall combined with high temperatures, and the absence of sustainable access to services that can optimize farm productivity. Cocoa-linked deforestation has also become a significant threat.
To tackle these the challenges effectively, Solidaridad sought to create a more sustainable and inclusive cocoa economy driven by small and medium enterprises (SME) that support farmers in adopting best practices: namely, intensification and rehabilitation supported by enabling policies and institutional oversight. Solidaridad’s focus is to optimize social responsibility and improve the environmental and economic performance of the cocoa sector. The SME development can be either embedded in the business operations of supply chain partners or privately agreed contracts to provide services to farmers.
To combat deforestation and promote good agronomic practices, Solidaridad supported SMEs in delivering high-value services to enable climate-smart cocoa production. Solidaridad focussed on equipping the next generation of cocoa farmers to become professional farmers and service providers with commercially viable businesses. It also helped communities identify priorities for development and build their capacity to negotiate space and resources so they can implement their own development agenda that will improve livelihoods, especially for women and young people.