While cocoa sustainability has become a critical thought for stakeholders in the global cocoa industry, Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union Limited (KKFU) and its partners are pioneering an innovative initiative to better the livelihoods of cocoa farmers along with achieving a sustainably improved crop yield.
The initiative, informed by a study undertaken by Fairtrade in 2018, has enabled Kuapa Kokoo to additionally pay cocoa farmers a substantial sum of GH₵108 per bag of each Fairtrade certified cocoa beans sold to its licensed buying company, Kuapa Kokoo Limited (KKL).
This additional income is estimated to be 16.4 percent of the farmgate price of GH₵66 per bag of cocoa beans.
The Executive Secretary of Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union Limited (KKFU), Nelson Adubofour, noted that living income is something KKFU prioritize and endeavour to see happening in the lives of cocoa farmers
For this reason, he said, Kuapa Kokoo and partners, the Alliances for Action championed by International Trade Center (ITC), Halba and Fairtrade Africa and others are keen on the initiative which seeks to improve farmer income.
The project, dubbed Sankofa, is diversified cropping on the same piece of land for cocoa production, while at the same time mitigating climate change by the avoidance of practices such as burning.
The climate-smart approach promotes the protection of biodiversity through planting a variety of trees and food crops to improve soil health and inset CO2 emissions. Also, carbon sequestration through these actions means farmers will earn and trade carbon credits from the trees in the future.
Crop diversification also enables the farmers to have year-round additional crops for household consumption as well as additional income outside the cocoa season.
Farmers participating in this project combine various crops including food crops, tree crops, timber trees, leguminous crops and other shrubs to create a conducive environment for the soil to enhance yield and biodiversity while avoiding deforestation.
Mr. Adubofour said: “cocoa is a forested crop and for that matter, Kuapa Kokoo and its partners have sought to create an environment suitable for it to thrive,” while adding that it is yielding very good results.
“Our partners have helped and we have been able to establish these farms as model farms for the start so that it could be a lesson or a farmer field school for others to emulate.”
Also, he said, it will help to do away with the use of herbicides, insecticides and other fertilizers because the environment is supposed to take care of its own in terms of providing soil fertility and also protecting the soil from pests and other hazards that threaten it.”
The project which is being piloted in four of Kuapa Kokoo’s primary cooperative societies – Kasapin, Goaso, Bibiani and Sankore – for four years, is currently in its third year of implementation.
So far, a total of 377 cocoa farmers are taking part in the dynamic agroforestry project with Kuapa Kokoo working to ensure that the project is expanded to cover all its 57 primary cooperative societies in future.
Mr. Adubofour said: “I expect that the farmers’ lives are improved and smiles are put on their faces because you realize that they go through a lot of stress and difficulties with their lives but gradually want to take them out of the poverty line.”
The Executive Secretary of KKFU, who was speaking in an interview with the B&FT entreated other Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) to follow the example of Kuapa Koko and Fairtrade, to pay the real living income differential to farmers.
He said this will improve their lives and also help to sustain cocoa production while serving as a motivation to their wards and youth to enter into cocoa farming.
The Programmes Leader for Fairtrade Africa, Abubakar Afful, said Fairtrade’s main objective is to see farmers’ livelihood improve, making sure that farmers live in better conditions.
“The minimum is to ensure that at least farmers can cover their cost of production, sustainable cost of production and leave a margin for them to be able to have a decent livelihood.”
He said every farmer needs to live a decent life, and this informed the study to understand what farmers need to earn a living income.
The study concluded that every farmer should, at least, be selling their cocoa beans at a farmgate price of $2,100 per ton, being the ‘Fairtrade Living Income Reference Price.’
“Living income is a concept that has come to stay and we are still in talks with the various commercial partners to come along with us so that we can all push and make sure that the livelihood of the farmers is enhanced in the long run.
For us, the entry point for the work we do is our certification scheme. Kuapa Kokoo is one of the Fairtrade certified cooperatives we are working with within Ghana. You need to be Fairtrade certified before you can even earn this living income reference price,” he said.
He noted that the farmers are happy about the project because they are getting multiple folds for their investment. This is because they are not relying on only cocoa as their source of income but growing additional crops that are also bringing in added income to augment whatever they need.
This contributes to a better livelihood for the farmer and we believe that with such signs that we are seeing and if we can continue to progress along that line, we will be able to drastically improve the livelihood of the farmer.
The Head of Region, Fairtrade West Africa, Edward Akapire, indicated that Fairtrade developed the LID strategy, which comes with multiple pillars to improve farmer income in 2016.
Within the LID strategy is the Living Income Reference Price, which is the price at which cocoa farmers, according to Fairtrade, should be paid to secure a dignified life for themselves and their households.
“We believe that cocoa farmers at the current market and farmgate prices are not in a position to be able to significantly secure that dignified livelihood which is why we have adopted this approach,” he said.
It is against this background that he said the adoption of LID by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire is a laudable intervention and supported by Fairtrade, especially given that it is far-reaching in terms of coverage.