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Ivorian, Ghanaian CSOs and farmers push for reforms in cocoa producer pricing

There is no doubt that the sustainability of the global multi-billion-dollar delectable chocolate industry hinges on the welfare of small scale cocoa farmers mostly in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Therefore, as a step towards pushing for the well-being of local cocoa producers and small local processors, farmers and civil society coalitions on cocoa in the two countries have demanded a reform in the mechanism for setting prices at the international level.

Sophiatou Babaedjou Colliee
Programme Manger in-charge of Advocacy for Solidaridad West Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Sophiatou Babaedjou Colliee

According to the members including women cocoa farmers, the proposed reform “should be a transparent and inclusive mechanism for setting farm-gate prices, taking into account all the relevant parameters that goes into producing cocoa such as the cost of production.”

This was contained in a joint declaration issued on Friday, July 29, 2022, by the Plateforme Ivoirienne pour le Cacao Durable (PICD) and the Ghana Civil-society Cocoa Platform (GCCP) at the end of their three-day strategic workshop in Grand-Bassam, Cote d’Ivoire.

From Wednesday, July 27 to Friday, July 29, the workshop discussed current challenges in the cocoa sector and prospects for development. The participants, mainly governance and rights advocates, conservation activitists and cocoa farmers, also identified common priorities and potential collaborations on topical issues in order to conduct joint analyses and draft common proposals.

Details of the Declaration

On behalf of the two platforms, the spokesperson for the Ivoirian Platform, Bakary Traore, presented details of the declaration at the end of meeting press briefing. It highlighted the issue of paying living income to cocoa farmers as one of the four priority areas for their attention, and affirmed their support for the efforts of their governments to increase the farm-gate price and income of cocoa producers through the Living Income Differential (LID) scheme.

The declaration also called for a transparent mechanism to redistribute the LID in line with commitments from the two countries. And in order to translate and practicalise the scheme at the national level, the group proposed that Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the Ivoirian Council for Coffee and Cocoa (CCC) should develop policy and implementation documents that will regulate the LID.

The second priority is deforestation and good management of natural resources, for which the declaration recommended the development of local sustainable land use plans that take into account the socio-cultural dynamics of the communities. It further suggested  a revision of in-country pesticide regulations in line with new developments in Western countries, which have banned a number of pesticides, because of their harmful effects. Also recommended is the establishment of a national forest monitoring system for cocoa traceability and deforestation assessment.

The third priority is human rights and modern slavery, an issue which, the declaration says, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have made progress in, in recent years, especially in the fight against child labour. This is evident by the establishment of a clear regulatory framework and the creation of specific structures to better combat this challenge in the two countries.

However, the declaration recommended “a change in the definition and context on the subject of child labour by properly situating the issue as human trafficking of children and modern slavery.” To this end, the declaration called for “a focus on border control to better fight against child trafficking networks across West African countries.”

The fourth priority is good governance/accountability and transparency. In relation to this, the declaration advocated the development of a framework for the establishment of a national representatives organisation of cocoa producers by COCOBOD and its Ivoirian counterpart – the CCC. This, the meeting saw as fundamental to the question of determining prices, since in the current producer price review sessions, there is no democratic process for proper representation of farmers on critical matters of concern.

The practice is that, regulatory authorities usually handpick farmer representatives and as such, they may not represent appropriately the actual positions and aspirations of cocoa farmers on critical matters. During earlier discussions, participants agreed that proper representation and participation of farmer and civil society organizations in decision making processes are crucial to the outcome of the on-going conversation on cocoa prices and everything that has to do with the welfare of cocoa farmers.

The declaration reiterated the commitment of the CSOs to contribute to the attainment of the objectives of the Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative (CIGHCI), established in 2020. Its objectives include – to achieve remunerative prices and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers as well as promote, foster and defend the common interest of member countries in the international cocoa market.

Comments about the workshop by some participants

The consensus was that the workshop marked the start of a dynamic dialogue and collaboration process for cocoa farmers and civil society organisations across the ECOWAS Region to have a common voice on issues at the national, regional and international levels. Participants were also of the view that the workshop served as the begining of an urgently needed South-South dialogue and networking on cocoa to balance representation, contribution and negotiations at on-going international discussions on cocoa.

The Coordinator of the Ghana Civil Society Cocoa Platform and Project Officer for Send Ghana’s Cocoa Advocacy Project, Nana Kwasi Barning Ackah, in an interview, said the workshop was the first of many to come to build an advocacy network that brings together all producer countries and CSOs.

“For the purpose of this workshop, we had just Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. But going forward, we are bringing on board our brothers in Nigeria and Cameroun to be a part of this network. This will enable us to strengthen the South-South advocacy that we have been pushing for, so we can synergise our strategies for the welfare of cocoa farmers, who are at the core of what we are doing.”

Programme Manger in-charge of Advocacy for Solidaridad West Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Sophiatou Babaedjou Colliee, noted that the coming together of CSOs and farmers on cocoa issues is an important step towards supplementing the efforts of international NGOs on cocoa.

“Local CSOs know the local context better, understand what farmers are going through and what the reality is on the ground,” she said in an interview, adding, “so they can better voice out the concerns of the farmers, both at the national and international level.” 

About the Workshop

The workshop was organised by Inades Formation Côte d’Ivoire, in partnership with Inkota Netzwerk, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It was part of activities under the “Capacity Building of Civil Society Organisations and Cocoa Producers’ Organisations involved in Policy Dialogue in Côte d’Ivoire” project.

The project aims to contribute to the development and implementation of strategies and measures to ensure a decent income for cocoa farming families. It further seeks to strengthen the capacities of civil society organisations and producers’ organisations, to make constructive and innovative proposals to civil society actors in the framework of international and national dialogue processes.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

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