Swissco charts gains on multi-million projects driving sustainable supply chains

Swissco (the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa), has issued a major update on 15 schemes valued at at total of CHF 26 million that it has hailed as making inroads into tackling key socio-economic and environmental challenges across its core supply chains, writes Neill Barston.

As the body explained, between 2018 to 2022, its members, which include Mondelez, Mars, Barry Callebaut, Puratos, Olam, Frey and Laderach, as well as Fairtrade, engaged in a series of public-private partnerships. These programmes, co-financed by SECO, invested CHF 26 million in 15 innovative cocoa value chain projects across eight countries.

The organisation is now publishing its report “Unlocking Innovation: Results and learnings from 15 value chain projects” that summarises the accomplishments and insights gained from these initiatives, drawing upon data analysis and stakeholder consultations.

According to the group, members have engaged in public-private partnerships, co-financed by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) to pilot innovative approaches in the cocoa value chain, with the 15 schemes undertaken in the past 5 years said to have inspired continuous improvement in sustainable sourcing. As Swissco noted, its achievements in recent years have set out parameters for achieving ‘a brighter, more ethical, and prosperous future for the Swiss cocoa value chain,’ which it hopes will influence global policies.

Reflecting on its schemes, the organisation said its members and partners reached  a total of 86‘472 farm households during this project cycle. The female-headed farm households comprised 21‘539 (approximately 25 %) of the total households reached, underlining a significant demographic factor in this endeavour.

Mapping efforts were also reported as being extensive, encompassing 92‘261 polygons and 95‘272 GPS-marked farms. Capacity-building initiatives were notably successful, with a substantial 47‘434 participants in income diversification training (39 % female participants) and 66‘333 participants in climate-smart agriculture training (24 % female participants). Additionally, the promotion of sustainable farming practices like agroforestry demonstrated encouraging outcomes, with 23‘835 hectares dedicated to new agroforestry systems, constituting 13 % of the total cocoa cultivation area.

Future progress
The key learnings of this project phase will shape the future activities of Swissco members, amongst others when taking on the scaling of promising innovative approaches. A prerequisite for the successful scaling of projects is land tenure security and resource availability of farmers.

As the organisation added, tailored interventions aligned with local needs and engagement of beneficiaries in their design enhance local ownership and thus increase the effectiveness and long-term impact of capacity-building. Leveraging local structures like Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) and innovative financing mechanisms plays a vital role in scaling efforts. Collaborations with national governments, digitalisation for efficient service extension, robust monitoring, and navigating governance challenges are crucial strategies to drive sustainability and address complex cocoa sector challenges.

Moreover, Swissco said its members are  encouraged to strengthen cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration, particularly when active in the same geographical areas, thus moving from siloed to holistic approaches for sustainability in the cocoa value chain and beyond. Consequently, a new SECO co-financing facility from 2023 to 2026 will provide the group’s members with the possibility to apply these learnings, aiming to leverage the resources of all supply chain partners and other sectors to effectively contribute to its overall 2030 sourcing goals.


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