First Joint Mission of the ISCOs in Ghana reinforces relationship with local stakeholders

In November 2022, the secretariats of the National Initiatives on Sustainable Cocoa in Europe (ISCOs) undertook a first joint mission to Ghana. In a series of meetings with local partners, the secretariats touched on areas of collaboration and complementarity between the ISCOs and producing country initiatives. The mission also allowed the ISCO secretariats to better grasp the realities on the ground during field visits and interactions with cocoa farmers.

Open discussions on economic challenges

During the mission, the ISCO secretariats had a meeting with both the management team of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) as well as the Côte d’Ivoire – Ghana Cocoa Initiative (CIGCI) which was set up last year to achieve remunerative prices and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. In both meetings, the unfavorable development of low cocoa prices took center stage. While Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire introduced in 2019 a Living Income Differential (LID) to increase cocoa prices, this system did not generate the desired impact. The Ghanaian and Ivorian trade boards and the CIGCI claim that many large companies have negated the LID’s value by forcing down a different premium, the origin differential.

The ISCO secretariats welcome the establishment of the CIGCI and will seek to support the recently announced Economic Pact

The ISCO secretariats agree that low prices pose a serious threat to the initiatives’ living income objectives. The ISCO secretariats, therefore, welcome the establishment of the CIGCI and will seek to support the recently announced Economic Pact. As market-based initiatives, the ISCOs aim to focus more on addressing the procurement and business practices, as well as increased transparency of their members to ensure these can support the joint sustainability ambitions.

The secretariats of the Belgian, Dutch, German and Swiss Initiatives on Sustainable Cocoa with the management team of COCOBOD.

Defining complementarity between producing & consuming country initiatives

The ISCOs aim to avoid duplication of efforts and build on existing initiatives in the cocoa sector. In that light, the ISCO secretariats then met with the coordinators from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, facilitators (IDH & WCF) and technical working group leads of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI). The conclusion of the meeting was that CFI and the ISCOs should stay in close contact, communicating transparently with each other and building on each other in order to increase impact and avoid double work. Financing was put forward as a concrete way in which the ISCOs could support the CFI. Furthermore, both parties saw opportunities in the harmonization of monitoring frameworks. The representatives from both CFI and the ISCOs acknowledged that they want in the future to further define the areas of complementarity between origin and market initiatives.

The ISCOs will continue to exchange with producing country initiatives, seeking complementarity and creating efficiencies

The ISCOs also had a meeting with the Ghana Civil Society Cocoa Platform with the objective to learn more about each other and to identify possibilities for a stronger collaboration. Through advocacy, this platform is influencing policies and programmes to put the well-being of cocoa farmers and their families central. Recommendations to the ISCOs were to create opportunities for farmer voices to be heard in events and working groups and to work on more transparency in the sector. Lastly, the ISCOs set up a Child Labour Meeting to provide an opportunity for an open and frank exchange between the private and public sector on the alignment of activities, interoperability of monitoring and reporting mechanisms and possibilities to set up catalyst funding.

Innovative interventions to increase farmers incomes and preserve biodiversity

During a two-day field trip, the ISCO secretariats visited innovative field projects and had the opportunity to exchange with the cocoa farmers involved.

Visit to Way to Go project in the KUAPA KOKOO cooperative in Konongo

The ISCO secretariats first visited the Way to Go! project of Lidl, Rikolto, Fairtrade Africa and Kuapa Kokoo in Konongo. Through the payment of premiums, the set-up of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), productivity improvements, and diversification activities, this project has brought significant improvements to the livelihoods of the cocoa farmers involved. Way to Go! chocolates are now being sold in thousands of shops across different markets. What started as a small project in Belgium about three years ago, supporting 40 farmers, has now grown to generate concrete benefits for 2000+ farming households.

The visit of the premises and chocolate factory of Fairafric close to Suhum gave insights into the manufacturing of organic chocolate. Fairafric’s mission is to ‘decolonize chocolate’ by shifting the entire organic chocolate value chain to cocoa origin countries. At this point 87 people have a job at the Fairafric factory and 2000 organic cocoa farmers are involved. The company hopes to expand, increasing their impact on cocoa farmers and creating further job employment in the Suhum region. Both the Way to Go! and Fairafric teams stressed the importance of the ISCOs’ work on transforming markets and creating a demand for sustainable cocoa for projects like these to succeed.

The ISCOs acknowledge that increasing farmer incomes is of central importance to address the challenges in the cocoa sector

During their visit of the Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG), the ISCOs visited the institution’s Dynamic Agroforestry (DAF) plots inspired by the Sankofa agroforestry project supported by the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa. Apart from having a positive effect on the environment and biodiversity, the implementation of DAF has huge potential to increase the income of farmers and to improve their resilience to market and production risks. The key question is how to implement these systems in a context of extreme poverty and without capacity for making investments.

Dynamic Agroforestry Plot by CRIG

Plea for more transparency and open knowledge exchange in the cocoa sector

In almost all exchanges had during the mission, transparency from the side of both companies and government was mentioned as a point for improvement. As such, the ISCOs and CIGCI agreed that more transparency will help public and private stakeholders better understand the current cocoa pricing challenges and work towards a solution. Furthermore, in the field of traceability, there is a need for more transparency on existing private and public traceability systems to avoid duplication of efforts and investments.

The ISCOs call for increased transparency from both the public and private sector to better understand and address the challenges in the cocoa sector

As part of their effort to increase transparency along the value chain and to promote knowledge exchange between producing and consuming countries, the ISCO are supporting the set-up of a joint household study through the Alliance on Living Income in Cocoa (ALICO). The Cocoa Research Institute Ghana will contribute to this study. At the request of COCOBOD, the ISCOs will ensure the methodology developed and data collection respond to the local context.


Mission Agenda

Day 1 ·         Meeting with COCOBOD management

·         Visit of the Cargill processing plant in Tema

Day 2 ·         Visit of the Way to Go project, KUAPA KOKOO Cooperative

·         Visit of Dynamic Agroforestry Plot at the Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG)

Day 3 ·         Meeting with Cocoa Research Institute Ghana (CRIG)

·         Visit of Fairafric factory and cocoa farms in Suhum

Day 4 ·         Meeting with Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI)

·         Meeting with Ghana Civil Society Platform

·         High-level reception at the Swiss embassy

Day 5 ·         Child labour meeting

·         Meeting with Côte d’Ivoire – Ghana Cocoa Initiative (CIGCI)

For more information, please contact Marloes Humbeeck via

  • Dutch Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (DISCO)

    The Dutch Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (DISCO) is a public-private partnership active in the Dutch cocoa and chocolate sector working to sustainably improve the livelihoods of current and future cocoa farming families.

    Read more
    Dutch Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (DISCO)
  • Beyond Chocolate

    Beyond Chocolate is the Partnership for a sustainable Belgian chocolate industry.

    Read more
    Beyond Chocolate