The Cocoa Household Income Diversification Project was implemented to improve farmers’ livelihoods. The project supported eighty households to rejuvenate 40 hectares of old cocoa farms and facilitated the building and development of seventy-seven Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). Purpose of these groups was to cultivate the habit of saving and investing and to ensure financial inclusion. In addition, land titles covering one thousand farms were provided to five hundred and one farmers. Furthermore, five hundred cocoa
farming households were trained on the negative impact of carbon emissions and provided with energy-efficient cook stoves that emitted very little carbon and saved time and energy. Finally, four hundred household members of forty VSLAs were supported to raise poultry as an additional livelihood.
While at the start of the project the average income gap of the farmers involved was 54%, by the end of the project the gap had closed to 39%. About 27% of the farmers involved have reached a living income.
The setting up of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) has proved to have a positive effect on the financial inclusion of farmers involved. As such, 76% of the farmers have achieved more savings since joining the group, 60% claim they have more money available to cater for their children’s school needs and 47% mentioned they have more disposable income per month. Linking the VSLA groups to financial institutions like the local rural banks helped the groups to make interest income on their savings. The VSLA groups also served as a means of creating awareness on other social issues such as human rights, environmental degradation and climate change.
The poultry activity requires in-depth knowledge in poultry production and veterinary services. Finding off takers for the birds has proven a challenge as there are a limited number of them in the region.
Without a security on the tenure of land, tenant farmers (who form about 60-70% of cocoa farmers) are unwilling to make any substantial investments into their old farms as lands will revert to landowners when old trees are replaced. Technical partner Meridia spent two years working with local authorities to fully resolved the grievances between traditional authorities who are the custodians of the land and tenant farmer associations and negotiated acceptance of a new way of land use documentation. This new way of land rights document will at least protect the beneficiary cocoa farmers for the next 50 years to invest in the land