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Careers in Cocoa Youssouf N’djoré

Country Director, Côte d'Ivoire
World Cocoa Foundation

Careers in Cocoa takes a look at some of the different backgrounds of those who make up the  World Cocoa Foundation. From the work they do, to the paths they took to get where they are today, learn about our team, and how they are using their skills and experiences to further the WCF mission. This is the last piece in a five-part series. 

Youssouf N’Djoré had always wanted to be a farmer. A lover of biology, he started focusing on agriculture in college, and then went on to earn his MBA in management.

“While I was gifted in several studies—math, physics, science—I had always been interested in the living. I grew up loving nature and wanted to work in an ambiance I could enjoy everyday,” said Youssouf.

After graduating as an Agricultural Engineer, Youssouf went to work at a banana industrial farm, learning best practices on how to grow bananas. Only there for six months, he left to join the National Bureau of Technical and Development Studies to work on a land tenure management project, hoping to make an even bigger impact in people’s lives in Côte d’Ivoire.

After a couple of years at the National Bureau, Youssouf joined a larger project in the Prime Minister’s office, integrating the work he was doing in land tenure management in a broader approach also including participatory local planning and rural investment. This was the last skills and experience acquisition stage before jumping into the cocoa world.

“I had the opportunity to join the cocoa sector in a director’s position in the Cocoa & Coffee Farmers Development Fund (FDPCC), and was in charge of training farmers and structuring their development environment,” said Youssouf. “Our mission was to adjust the balance of  the cocoa management system. The state and the corporate stakeholders were very strong in the value chain, but the farmers were the weakest part of the balance check. They needed their capacity reinforced, and I wanted to help them.”

His mission in the cocoa management system led him to tackle another challenge: the need to ensure that cocoa products are free of child labor. With his passion for solving this crisis, Youssouf realized that this issue was larger than a single management system—it affects the entire cocoa industry. He’d go on to work on a child labor remediation system, building strong community, government, and organizational partnerships with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. He had never worked with stakeholders on a more important issue.

“It was so interesting to work in this industry where people collaborate together on an important issue in a noncompetitive way, with a common goal.”

Youssouf went on to spend 10 years in the cocoa sector at the then-FDPCC now known as Le Conseil du Café Cacao (CCC).

From there, he joined the nonprofit NGO Care International, where he further designed its cocoa programming in Côte d’Ivoire. Youssouf started with just two projects and built a program that turned into multiple projects with 10 companies. Youssouf’s work was starting to bridge the gap between business and social concerns. And that’s when an opportunity to work with the World Cocoa Foundation opened up.

“With WCF, I’m able to set standards and work on things important to me in the cocoa industry, like women’s empowerment. Because of my past work, I put myself in a position to make the biggest impact possible.”

Youssouf has made an impact in just a few years at WCF. As director of social development, he supports companies by providing social development best practices, including financial inclusion, community and women’s empowerment, and gender mainstreaming.

“My ultimate goal as an African and Ivorian, is to help farming households sustain a thriving business—not a painful one. I don’t want farming families to just stay ahead of the poverty line, I want them to excel by providing them the right environment and the right skills.” Youssouf works with companies that are committed to shifting the balance of power in the supply chain, giving farmers a voice.

“The most rewarding part of my work—beyond all technicalities and legwork—is also the human experience: how to be part of a team, making it grow, and demonstrating leadership, how to motivate communities and then see them taking ownership of their destiny to positively change it. It’s my mission to make things better, and connect people together to reach this goal.”