Beyond Chocolate SteerCo Mission to Côte d’Ivoire

From November 4th to November 8th, the Beyond Chocolate Steering Committee travelled to Côte d’Ivoire. This mission facilitated an open and transparent exchange with cocoa producers and producing country initiatives on challenges and opportunities to reaching the Beyond Chocolate end goals. 

Objectives of the mission

Before kicking of the 4-day trip, the Steering Committee came together to formulate their expectations of the mission. They identified the following objectives:

  • To better grasp the realities on the field and to dive into complexities and sensitivities in an open exchange with farmers and cooperatives.
  • To create efficiencies with local partners and initiatives that are working on the same impact goals (eg. Cocoa & Forests Initiative, Enabel, Bio,…).
  • To create trust and mutual understanding between SteerCo members, thus strengthening the Steering Committee.
  • To better understand individual roles and responsibilities.

Visit of the Yeyasso cooperative

The SteerCo then travelled to Man to visit the Yeyasso Cooperative. This cooperative of over 6.000 cocoa and coffee farmers is partner in one of the Beyond Chocolate co-financed projects “Virtuous Beans“, implemented by la chocolaterie Galler together with Enabel and ZOTO. The project supports 150 Fairtrade farmers to convert to organic production and improve the quality of their cocoa, thus increasing the price they receive. Furthermore, the project works on productivity, diversification and the strengthening of the cooperative through coaching on financial management and marketing by Enabel.

In the framework of the project the SteerCo had the chance to visit a bio cocoa farm and to exchange with bio farmers, as well as to visit a bio fertilizer factory, a fermentation center and a tree nursery, and to exchange with female farmers participating in the Fairtrade Women School of Leadership. The SteerCo also got a broader view of the activities of the Yeyasso cooperative and had the chance to exchange with the cooperative management on the successes the cooperative has booked and the challenges and opportunities ahead. As such, the cooperative made a strategic choice for high-quality and certified cocoa. While Yeyasso has been successful in making the switch to Fairtrade and Bio, finding offtakers for these certified volumes has proven difficult. This challenge stresses the importance of Beyond Chocolate partners meeting their 2025 objective of 100% certification/company scheme coverage.

Dominique Derom, coach in financial management and marketing at Enabel, then gave more information on the importance of strengthening farmer cooperatives in terms of financial management and marketing. She also stressed the importance of giving data ownership to the cooperative, referring to the living income analysis of 160 Yeyasso farmers that was published recently. The fact Yeyasso owns this data allows them to get a better view of farmer challenges and to identify action points. The Steering Committee admires the dynamism and ambition of Yeyasso and thanks the cooperative for the informative tour and the open exchanges.

Visit of the Mont Péko National Park and Cocoa & Forests Initiative deep dive

Next, the SteerCo travelled to Guémon for a guided visit of Mont Péko, one of the 8 national parks of Côte d’Ivoire. The park occupies an area of ​​34,000 ha and is known  for its vegetation and for its large and varied fauna, including elephants, panthers, buffaloes, duikers, monkeys, etc. Côte d’Ivoire has been subject to heavy deforestation, partially due to cocoa production. Under the protection of the Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves (OIPR), large part of the park has been preserved and farming activities have been removed. The OIPR gave the Steering Committee a tour on the challenges the park is facing and stressed the need for additional funds to prevent further deforestation.

Linked to this visit, the IDH Côte d’Ivoire office then gave a presentation on the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI). This is a multistakeholder initiative of top cocoa-producing countries (Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire) with leading chocolate and cocoa companies to end deforestation and restore forest areas, through no further conversion of any forest land for cocoa production. CFI recently launched the second part of the program CFI 2.0. which focuses on the collaboration of companies and governments in priority landscapes to conserve remaining forests and restore degraded area. As such, under CFI a landscape platform was launched in the Cavally region in Côte d’Ivoire.. The SteerCo and IDH discussed advantages of such a landscape approach and opportunities for the Mont Péko park. A brainstorm was initiated on opportunities for collaboration between CFI and Beyond Chocolate. The discussion will be picked up by the Steering Committee to more closely define areas of collaboration and harmonization.

Building bridges with key stakeholders in Côte d’Ivoire

Next, Fairtrade Africa and Fairtrade Belgium organized an exchange between the Beyond Chocolate Steering Committee and local Civil Society actors. The goal of the meeting was to get to know each others work better and to discuss opportunities for collaboration. The SteerCo then ended the mission with a high-level lunch organized by the embassy of Belgium in Côte d’Ivoire and attended by First-Secretary Akos Herman and by representatives from Enabel, Bio Invest and Beluci.

The Steering Committee will take up the learnings from the mission when giving shape to the Beyond Chocolate 2024 annual plan.

Want to find out more about the Beyond Chocolate Steering Committee? Click here