Supporting Smallholder Farmers for a Sustainable Cocoa Sector

Cocoa production is one of the main drivers of deforestation in West Africa. This report examines the effectiveness of company programs within the cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana while identifying relevant factors that shift farmer behavior toward more sustainable practices. A comprehensive effort from diverse stakeholders is required to overcome the challenges faced by smallholder cocoa farmers.

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana account for 82 percent of the global market share for cocoa

Together, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana account for 82 percent of the market share for global cocoa production, with an estimated 2 million smallholder farmers. These farmers often lack the ability to invest in sustainable agricultural practices due to barriers including low income and structural poverty. Poor land management practices, aging and diseased trees, and the impending effects of climate change result in low productivity rates on the majority of smallholder cocoa farms. To boost production, farmers are increasingly seeking to expand their growing areas into unclaimed forest land, which ultimately threatens the tropical ecosystem.

Cocoa production is a key driver of deforestation in West Africa

For this reason, cocoa production is one of the primary drivers of deforestation in West Africa. From 1990 to 2015, forest cover in Côte d’Ivoire declined by more than half. Likewise, deforestation in Ghana has been occurring at a rate of 2 percent per year for decades. Cocoa production must become more sustainable to meet the growing demands of farmers without compromising valuable forest land. The governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire set the market prices for cocoa, and relatively few multinational corporations (MNCs) control a large portion of the cocoa supply chain at the processing and manufacturing levels. Such a high concentration of market power translates into MNCs having leverage over the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices within cocoa production. Companies have established programs offering training, inputs, or access to credit for smallholder cocoa farmers in an effort to encourage sustainable development.

Effectiveness of company program and factors for the shift in behavior examined

The purpose of this report is to examine the effectiveness of these company programs within the cocoa industry in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana while identifying relevant factors that shift farmer behavior. Findings from the study indicate that training, land ownership, and farmer support – along with the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) – represent the main factors for improving cocoa farming productivity. Additionally, it was found that younger farmers are more likely to attend training sessions and engage in GAP than their older counterparts. Finally, female farmers face several challenges that negatively impact production rates, such as lack of land ownership and decreased government support. A sustained and comprehensive effort from diverse stakeholders – ranging from MNCs, to national and sub-national governments, to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – is necessary to overcome the difficulties faced by smallholder cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

This report was made possible with support from the Supply Chain Sustainability Research Fund and the Meridian Institute with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.

The fieldwork for this project is supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag via the NYDF Global Platform and was carried out by our partners at AgroEco and CEFCA.