Fairtrade and Farmforce combine for major Ivory Coast cocoa data management venture

Fairtrade International, Fairtrade Africa, and digital solutions provider Farmforce are set to extend a potentially game-changing  scheme focused on delivering smart data management system to more than two dozen cocoa co-operatives in Ivory Coast, writes Neill Barston.

As the collective organisations explained, its core goal is to empower farmers to gain data ownership, provide greater traceability in the sector and strengthen their role as trading partners.

The venture was initially launched as a pilot scheme in April 2021, between Fairtrade and Farmforce, enabling cooperatives to implement a digitalised Internal Management System, or IMS, to collect data on members’ farms, production, and sales, and enable them to better manage prominent risks such as deforestation.

With the scheme now being taken forward fully, it will see an additional 25 cooperatives engaged with Farmforce’s proprietary technology with nearly 400 people trained on how to use the software for optimising efficiency for the cooperatives and their members.

“Our primary mission during this scale-up phase is to ensure that the involved cooperatives are enabled to use Farmforce effectively, leading to long-term benefits for their businesses and for their members,” said Jon Walker, Senior Advisor for Cocoa at Fairtrade International, who will be speaking again at this year’s World Confectionery Conference event in Brussels (see our exclusive video with him from last year’s event.

“Ultimately, the focus for us is to ensure greater efficiency in cooperative management based on the principles of FairData, or the implementation of fairness in data distribution and ownership.”

Farmforce’s unique technology provides cooperatives with their own superior cocoa beans production traceability system for the first mile of the food supply chain including the capacity to map farms and manage that data. This is combined with a data collection tool that enables cooperatives to acquire data on their members’ households, productivity, and training. The data collected assists cooperatives in assessing risks such as deforestation and child labour for their members as well as improving the cooperatives’ business operations.

“Our digital solutions provide organisations with the confidence to secure sustainable sourcing, improve farmer quality of life, and protect the environment. Together with Fairtrade we are giving the cooperatives the ability to own their data and professionally manage the information they share with their customers,” Anne Jorun Aas, CEO at Farmforce, explained.

“The cooperatives can use Farmforce to properly manage their records and activities and then use that data for the benefit of their farmer members, and also to be in a stronger position with their commercial partners,” she added.

The ability of cooperatives to assess risks will also help them maintain, and potentially grow, market access in Europe and elsewhere as governments increasingly implement human rights and environmental due diligence and deforestation regulations. Access to these markets is critical for the cooperatives and their members’ household incomes which largely rely on cocoa farming.

“Because of existing logistical challenges, an extensive and high-quality training on Farmforce’s digital solutions will be really beneficial to our cooperative for collecting the information needed, streamlining our certification processes, and accessing new markets,” noted Louis Sosthene B, a participating trainee from the Coop CA ECAPR.

“Considering the increasing stakes in the sector and impending stricter regulations, digitising our farms is a step we need to take to improve our activity and the living conditions of the producers.”

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