FINANCING THE TRANSITION TO AGROFORESTRY FOR THE COCOA INDUSTRY OF CÔTE D’IVOIRE
Bamba Ibrahim is a 35-year-old cocoa farmer in Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire. He grew up in a family of cocoa farmers and has been farming full-time since he was 15. Today, his cocoa beans are worth less than they were a few years ago, as the price of cocoa has dropped. “Of course, I wish I had more land so I could plant more cocoa and make more income,” he says.
“Of course, I wish I had more land so I could plant more cocoa and make more income”Bamba Ibrahim
The chocolate industry is one of the largest in the world, with an annual retail market value of approximately $100 billion. West Africa accounts for 70 per cent of global cocoa production, supplied by smallholder farmers like Ibrahim. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the largest producers, and in Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa production and trade represent 40 per cent of export revenues, employing eight million people almost one third of the country’s population.
Over the years, extensive cultivation practices have led to the ever-increasing expansion of cocoa areas, deterioration of soil quality and decreasing crop yields. This has resulted in large-scale deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire, with over 80 per cent of the country’s forests now gone.
There are many options that could ensure sustainability while increasing yields, namely climate-smart agriculture, soil conservation practices, and the promotion of agroforestry to ensure shade-grown cocoa production and soil rehabilitation. But how to streamline these solutions is intimately linked to knowledge dissemination and the availability of financing.
“The UN-REDD Programme has helped bring the different partners together to set up mechanisms that will enable small farmers to access finance,” says Kouamé Ahoulou Ernest, Coordinator of the national REDD+ secretariat. “The UN-REDD Programme is helping build sustainable cocoa production by engaging the private sector and technical partners and by encouraging farmers to use high-quality seedlings and the right agroforestry techniques to take care of their plantations.”
“We have introduced agroforestry in some pilot projects,” says Jean Paul Aka, a national sustainable land-use finance specialist. “But if we want to scale up, we need to help farmers working outside cooperatives to access finance, in order for them to convert to agroforestry, buy seeds and bridge the revenue gap while waiting for the new plants to bear cocoa fruits. That’s what we’re working on.”
One challenge for smallholders is the need to possess a land title in order to qualify for a bank loan. Obtaining a title costs about $1,400 per hectare, a sum that not many farmers can afford. UN-REDD has therefore started to bring together cooperatives, cocoa producers, supply chain businesses, traders, the forestry sector, the fruit sector and the national and international banks in the hope of developing a mechanism to help these farmers access finance for titling. This means the world to smallholders like Ibrahim, who has never been able to even taste chocolate due to the prohibitive price. “For the money I would have to spend on a bar of chocolate I can buy a bag of rice to feed a family of seven people,” he says.