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Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire continue to live in poverty

Most cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire still live below the poverty line, suggests a study by the French Development Agency (AFD) and Barry Callebaut.

The study estimates that cocoa farmers earn 568 West African Franc (CFA) per day, approximately €0.86. This is the direct result of low cocoa yields, on average 435 kg/ha, on already relatively small cocoa farms. On top of that, many of the cocoa trees in Côte d’Ivoire are old and beyond their most fertile age. Plant diseases, such as stem borer, swollen shoots virus (CSSV) and mirid bugs add further to low productivity.

Also highlighted was that basic socioeconomic infrastructure such as primary schools, primary health care and drinking water is often not present in cocoa farming communities. Nevertheless, farmers do not envisage giving up this crop. The main reason for not adopting better agricultural practices is not the lack of knowledge, but the lack of means.

“Data and statistics on cocoa farmers’ well-being, yields, access to finance, diseases and agricultural practices are scarce, which is a serious constraint to the efficient design and implementation of programs and actions for better cocoa sustainability,” explains Bruno Lecierc, AFD country manager in Côte d’Ivoire.

The barriers to yield improvements are the insufficient use of fertilizers, including organic fertilizers due to insufficient financial means and the lack of access to finance. In addition and of particular relevance in Côte d’Ivoire where trees are old and highly affected by diseases, the requirement to replant cocoa trees with the optimal planting material is often postponed due to a lack of knowledge of best management practices.

Under its recently launched new sustainability strategy Forever Chocolate, Barry Callebaut has put forward the goal to lift over 500,000 cocoa farmers out of poverty by 2025.

Nicko Debenham, head of sustainability at Barry Callebaut, adds, “The results of this study show that Barry Callebaut’s approach to lifting cocoa farmers out of poverty by focusing on yield improvement is the right approach. Nevertheless, it also underlines the size of the challenge and the necessity to work with governments to create the right socioeconomic infrastructure and access to finance and inputs.”

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