Beyond Chocolate Steering Committee mission to Côte d’Ivoire

From 9 till 13 September the Beyond Chocolate Steering Committee visited Côte d’Ivoire. The objectives of the mission were threefold. By seeing the local Ivorian context and conducting field visits the members gained a thorough understanding of the concrete challenges, looked for possible strategies to tackle those challenges and became convinced of the importance of a holistic approach. Since the group visited the country during the ICCO yearly meetings, the opportunity presented itself to further position Beyond Chocolate in the international community and interact with local government and international stakeholders. At the request of the civil society partners, the members of the delegation engaged in a conversation with local communities and cooperatives and took this input into consideration for the next steps in our process.

This first Steering Committee mission provided the Beyond Chocolate Partnership with an excellent opportunity to establish relationships with the government of Cote d’Ivoire, key stakeholders on the ground and made the program objectives known in-country. Thanks to the support of the Belgian ambassador’s office and the local IDH office, concrete steps towards a more inclusive program development were made.

A detailed overview of the field mission:

Monday evening

After the IDH project team met for a first informal work session with the GISCO, SWISSCO and upcoming DISCO in August 2019, the Steering Committee members met upon their arrival in Abidjan with the secretariats of the other national EU platforms and some of GISCO’s board members for an informal exchange of ideas. The leader of the EU delegation at ICCO joined the conversation as well. The exchange showed that there is a real appetite for the platforms to work together on the shared topics living income and ending deforestation. The platforms will also align as much as possible on the measurement and evaluation of the partnerships.

Tuesday

The day after arriving in Abidjan, the members met for a breakfast meeting with a representative of Tony’s Chocolonely and IDH’s country Director Valérie Reboud. As an interesting business model aiming for a living income of their farmers Tony’s’ activities link directly with the ambitious Beyond Chocolate targets. Beyond Chocolate will therefore continue to discuss with Tony’s Chocolonely’s team about their activities and share lessons learned with the group.

Since the largest part of the Belgian market is being served by the 3 chocolate couverture makers in Belgium, Barry Callebaut, Cargill and Puratos, the Steering Committee opted for three separate field visits of the couverture makers’ partners on the ground. For Cargill, a cooperative, close to Aboisso, was visited. After discussing with the cooperative leadership, the group witnessed a farmer training session by a Cargill trainer and was given a demonstration of the Cargill traceability pilot program.

Wednesday

For Puratos, a visit to a community close to Neo-Brousse in San Pedro, took place and the fermentation and drying activities of the Cacao-Trace Post Harvest Centre were introduced to the SteerCo members. The plantation work showed the real-life challenges for the farmers involved in the Belgian chocolate sector. Visits to local communities in the protected forest areas showed the importance of gender transformative action. The involvement of women in the day-to-day activities of a local community is visible, but when it comes to engaging with outsiders, the elderly (men) do the talking. At the same time this visit of a forest encampment confronted the group with the staggering basic services needs such as clean water, schooling, electricity, basic road infrastructure, etc.

Thursday

The next day, a field visit to a local cocoa plantation was organized by Barry Callebaut which showed the importance and effects of basic pruning activities. The plantation visit was combined with a stop at the San Pedro buying factory. The visit showed Callebaut’s work in quality control, handling of the large amounts of cocoa beans in the buying factory and enabled the SteerCo to engage in a direct conversation with the factory management team.

Friday

For the last day of the mission, the Belgian embassy organized in close collaboration with the IDH country office a series of interesting meetings and events. For Beyond Chocolate it was the first time that local authorities were approached and informed about the partnership.

As head of the DGD’s Private Sector Unit, Jean-Jacques Bastien presented Beyond Chocolate and the Belgian Business Partnership Facility at the local chambers of commerce. Meanwhile, the delegation had a meeting with a smaller trader, Cocoanect, to learn from their hands-on experiences.

The group was introduced to the overall activities of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) by Vice-President Tim McCoy. WCF briefed the group on the ongoing workshops around the child labour challenges in close collaboration with local government of Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Parallel to this meeting, Beyond Chocolate’s chairman Patrick Hautphenne, Jean-Jacques Bastien and the Belgian ambassador Michael Wimmer gave interviews to the local press about our Partnership, the ambitions toward 2025 and 2030 and the importance of West-Africa for the Belgian chocolate sector.

The delegation and the Belgian ambassador afterwards had a meeting at the Ambassador’s residence with the leadership of the Conseil Café Cacao to present Beyond Chocolate, briefly discuss on the floor price initiative and to discuss about pathways for collaboration. The Steerco stressed at this occasion that local farmers should be the direct beneficiary of the designed initiatives.

Ambassador Michael Wimmer hosted a lunch meeting for the delegation. The Conseil Café Cacao, the Minister for Water and Forests, the Belgian ICCO director Michel Arrion, the director of co-operative union ECOOKIM and several Belgian private sector representatives joined the lunch. A vibrant discussion took place around the possibilities for closer collaboration between Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, the Belgian chocolate sector and the diverse stakeholders of Beyond Chocolate.

Michel Arrion, the Belgian director of ICCO, briefed the members of the delegation about the ICCO meetings of earlier that week. He provided the delegation with a high-level view on the activities of ICCO. Furthermore, the Consultative Board of earlier that week elected Beyond Chocolate’s senior program manager as a new member of the Consultative Board.

The delegation finally met with representatives from local civil society, RICE, the Ivorian network of fair trade and INADES Formation, a network of pan African associations working towards sustainable and fair trade in Africa.  To guarantee the inclusiveness of the Beyond Chocolate, this exchange was facilitated by the civil society stakeholders in Beyond Chocolate. The discussion clearly showed the challenges for both organisations in their day-to-day activities, focussed on the importance of having functioning cooperative organisations and demonstrated the complexity of the local context.

Note: approximately 70% of the costs of this SteerCo mission were covered by the participants’ respective organizations. The remaining costs were paid out of the Beyond Chocolate program budget. More info around overall budgeting and costs will be shared in the annual report.

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