Like many organisations, the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) has faced difficulties this year due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Government restrictions on travel in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire resulted in the postponement or cancellation of events requiring physical presence, high demand for technology in target areas with weak IT infrastructure, and operational readjustments. Despite these obstacles, the CFI has achieved a number of remarkable results throughout 2020.
The CFI stocktaking workshops held in both countries have proved to be a fruitful process to share the achievements and to understand the challenges that CFI faces and how to overcome them. These workshops allowed the signatories of the CFI Joint Framework for Action and key stakeholders to meet to analyze the results and achievements, to discuss the challenges faced over the past two years, and to reflect on the actions of the initiative beyond 2020. A high level of commitment was observed in the high response rates to the surveys that were conducted prior to the workshops in March-June, with a response rate of 60% in Côte d’Ivoire and 82% in Ghana. The representation of respondents was also very balanced, including stakeholders from the private, public and CSO sectors.
The surveys indicated that the CFI has made substantial progress. Significant gains have been made in the governance of the Joint Framework for Action. Indeed, a number of important advances have been welcomed by participating stakeholders, namely the effective establishment of governance structures, the creation of the national CFI secretariat, the publication of action plans (National Implementation Plan in 2018 and Action Plans of signatory companies in 2019), improved communication between the public and private sectors in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and the publication of land use maps in both countries. In addition, throughout 2020 alone, a series of successful awareness-raising workshops were held in four priority regions in Côte d’Ivoire, and local-level forums were held in one priority region in Ghana. These activities have led to a better understanding of the CFI’s activities and direct engagement in addressing the needs of communities at the regional level.
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The above surveys also helped to highlight stakeholder recommendations for the implementation of the CFI beyond 2020. In Ghana, stakeholder recommendations focused on four overarching themes: (1) Collaboration and partnership, (2) Increased commitment to CFI outcomes, (3) Operationalization of monitoring and evaluation, and (4) Intensification of activities at the local level. In the context of improving collaboration and partnership, data sharing among private sector partners was recommended. Training and capacity building, as well as improved law enforcement, were also considered essential for increased protection of protected forests. In Côte d’Ivoire, recommendations focused on six main themes: (1) mobilisation of financial resources, (2) data and information sharing, (3) building confidence in CFI, (4) alignment of stakeholder activities, (5) strengthening the technical secretariat and (6) extension of the CFI platform to include additional perennial crop value chains.
The results of the surveys were used in the evaluation workshops held in May-June 2020. Following these workshops, working sessions were undertaken by the thematic working groups in Côte d’Ivoire and task forces in Ghana, to define national action plans for the period 2021-2025. Work started in June and is on-going, with the ambition to finalise the CFI 2021-2025 action plans and accompanying budgets in both countries by the end of 2020. On 18 September 2020, the thematic working groups and other relevant stakeholders in Côte d’Ivoire met through a technical workshop in Abidjan during which each thematic group presented its provisional action plan for the period 2021-2025. The workshop participants then had the opportunity to provide feedback and recommendations that the groups can incorporate as they refine their plans.
The participatory and open process that characterized the development of the action plans 2021-2025 in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana is essential to ensure transparency and ownership of the next steps of the CFI, which will focus on achieving impact at landscape level.