Cocoa Yiedie Project – Lifting Ghana Cocoa Farmers Out of Poverty

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I4DI is proud to introduce our partnership with the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (L3F) on an innovative project aimed at improving smallholder cocoa farmers incomes in Ghana.

As the world continues to demand more and more chocolate, suppliers and producers are working to deliver close to 6 million tons of it globally each year. The finicky cacao plant that delivers the main ingredient of our chocolate is grown on tropical lowlands around equator. Cocoa fruit is produced by an equal number of smallholder farmers (~ 6 million), who derive their livelihoods from the hard work that goes into it. More than half of the world’s cocoa harvest comes from West Africa (60%), and is produced by farming families that struggle to make their ends meet. The rest of the world’s cocoa farmers who live in poverty in overwhelming numbers, share this reality. 

Growing cocoa trees is hard. Farming families often have small farms and lack access to finance, technical skills and know how to keep their soil nutritious, trees healthy and reach their productivity potential. In Ghana and globally, development partners and chocolate value chain actors have invested in building capacity of smallholder farmers and their families and other interventions to boost productivity, but have seen limited returns. Which practical solutions could help farmers sustain their families’ needs out of cocoa harvest? Can farmers couple land restoration with increased income? 

These are the key questions that Cocoa Yiedie, a 3-year initiative aimed at identifying the levers and enablers that can help farmers sustainably restore their farms and improve their farming income,  is asking as it is launched in Ghana. The project led by Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (L3F), has brought together a stellar team of partners: Mars Incorporated (global business that produces some of the world’s most famous brands of confectionery, food, and pet care products), Touton  (a decade-long major player in global cocoa trade and Mars’ main cocoa supplier), Solidaridad West Africa (local implementer with extensive experience working with smallholders in West Africa). 

The Institute for Development Impact will carry out a role of a monitoring, evaluation, and learning [MEL] partner to design the learning approach and evaluate the project’s impacts over time.

The project is being implemented in Western Ghana in the districts of Sunyani and Dormaa West in Bono region and in the district of Asunafo North in Ahafo region, and aims to find a sustainable sourcing model that will accelerate farmers’ transition to a decent living income in a test & learn approach, which ideally can be replicated in other contexts and regions. This test and learn approach, developed by I4DI, as the project’s learning partner is an innovative, evidence-based approach that provides a framework for micro-pilot testing of the various interventions designed by L3F to accelerate good agricultural practices (GAP) adoption and rates of replanting. By implementing several micro-pilot tests of selected interventions, the project’s return on investment on financial and technical resources ends up being more targeted, and the learnings gleaned: business relevant and farmer centric. As a result of these pilots, by the end of the third year, it is expected that the project will have an evidence-based bundle of interventions that will drive farmer productivity, and subsequent profitability and resiliency.

Farmer Testimonials

“Several programs have asked me in the past to plan and manage my farm better.  I know what I need to do but I cannot afford the quality inputs and labor force to make it happen. It is too risky for me now to borrow money and prices keep increasing!”

“It is difficult for a young woman to generate sufficient income and become financially independent in the couple as they do not often have access to the land. And when they have access, and especially for female-headed households, the challenge we face is to find workers in the neighborhood that are qualified and know how to restore soils and take care of new plantings