Cocoa Sustainability Knowledge: Learning Together, Focusing on Farmers

Author Victoria Woolner

Strategy & Learning Associate
World Cocoa Foundation

In July, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) hosted the 2018 WCF Learning Meeting in Accra, Ghana with close to 80 participants from around the world. Ghanaian Government representatives from COCOBOD, Ivorian Government representatives from Le Conseil du Café-Cacao, representatives from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), the University of Ghana, industry members of CocoaAction and WCF, leaders in the chocolate and cocoa sectors, civil society organizations, and other development partners all gathered together for three intense days of sharing the greatest learnings and challenges from our work over the past year towards a sustainable cocoa sector.

Over our common history, WCF and our member companies have gained a lot of insights and experienced successes, failures, and everything in between while working towards a sustainable cocoa sector. The 2018 WCF Learning Meeting was the first time that WCF dedicated three days to take a cross-topic, cross-program, cross-stakeholder view of the greatest learning areas that will allow us to deepen our impact and results for cocoa farmers. Ultimately, cocoa farmers are at the center of all our efforts to promote sustainable cocoa and were likewise the central focus for the meeting. With that in mind, over the course of the three days we shared and built on specific farmer-focused learnings, insights, and research gathered in the areas of:

  • Sustainable livelihoods
  • Monitoring & evaluation (M&E)
  • Agricultural productivity and farmer professionalization
  • Community (social) development

On Day 1, we discussed how industry is addressing sustainable livelihoods through the work of WCF programs, what data and information exists and can be leveraged, and how that can help to inform strategies and be incorporated into work going forward. We also had a conversation with representatives of the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on what their vision of sustainable livelihoods is and how we could collectively move in the right direction. Finally, we completed the afternoon with two real examples of pilot work led by industry to improve farmer incomes by optimizing both cocoa and non-cocoa production through diversification, investment, and professionalization.

On Day 2, the meeting participants split into groups to share the main challenges they encounter in M&E in the cocoa sector, as well as to provide possible solutions. The topics that the groups discussed included design and set-up, data collection, data analysis and validation, reporting, and data use. The afternoon continued with sessions that focused on how to increase agricultural productivity at scale. Various stakeholders including researchers, government representatives, and industry members presented and then discussed further the challenges and possible solutions in small groups. The topics included good agricultural practices (GAP) adoption, replanting and rehabilitating for Cocoa Swollen Shoots Virus (CSSV) management, soil fertility management, and the importance of considering flavor quality.

Day 3 wrapped up the learning event with a series of thoughtful presentations and group discussion, a visual gallery walk, and energy-building dance breaks to cover topics on community development. The learnings and challenges that were shared and discussed included best practices for Community Needs Assessments, a series of approaches to conducting Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems and child protection in general, how to best engage with local governments, and lessons from supporting School Management Committees.

At the end of each day, we paused to reflect on what was the most important learning, insight, or challenge that we heard during the day and based on that how to keep the farmer at the center of our work. Our aim was to, through sharing and dialogue, summarize where cocoa sustainability knowledge is in 2018 and start to brainstorm what next steps can be taken for a sustainable cocoa sector centered on farmers.

We will share a more detailed summary of the 2018 WCF Learning Meeting in an upcoming report and look forward to how we can build on this event in the year ahead.

Presenting challenges and solutions to community development issues
  • Featured Experts Hervé D. Bisseleua

    Director of Agricultural Productivity & Chief Party ACI II
    World Cocoa Foundation
  • Featured Experts Nira S. Desai

    Senior Director of Strategy & Learning
    World Cocoa Foundation
  • Featured Experts Michael Matarasso

    Director of Monitoring and Evaluation
    World Cocoa Foundation
  • Featured Experts Youssouf N’djoré

    Director of Social Development and Acting Côte d'Ivoire Country Director
    World Cocoa Foundation
Visual gallery walk presentation
Dance break!