31 Jul 2015 “Whites don’t cheat” was one of the remarks given by a cocoa farmer, when asked why he would sell to Ecom. This initially shocking remark was later revealed as an indication of the importance of integrity in developing relations with smallholders.
This week, our Friday reflection piece comes from Learning and Innovation Manager, Iris van der Velden, currently travelling in Ghana, with a colleague from NewForesight, Joost Gorter, to gather company data for research on Service Delivery Models.
Ecom has developed an extensive “Service Delivery Model (SDM)” for cocoa
farmers in Ghana. The main objective of the SDM is to create impact at farmer
level. A diverse range of services are offered to the cocoa farmers; trainings
(on pruning, weeding, integrated pest control management, crop diversification,
child labour, etc.), access to inputs on credit, seedlings for replanting (via
nurseries), and traceability.
We had the pleasure to meet some of the farmers that are working with Ecom, now in their 3rdyear. These farmers explained, their decision who to work with, who to sell their cocoa too, has large impact on their livelihoods. This decision is made based on the relationship between the farmer and the buying company, and trust is crucial for a good relationship. Ecom is building trust through timely payments (“money is the life blood of people”), no cheating when measuring the cocoa quantities and real efforts to work with farmers to improve their productivity.
When speaking with farmers, the services provided that are the most valued are; training (pruning and weeding), access to inputs and tools, like the “go to hell sickle” which allows farmers to harvest cocoa pods high up in their trees.
Farmers that have been producing cocoa for the last 50 years had the
chance to try chocolate for the first time, with some of the rations we brought
along. They thought it was amazing to see how their product is being used and
would be happy to receive a box of chocolates every year. And we thought it was amazing to share this experience with them.