CARE and Cargill released a report entitled “A Decade of Impact in Cocoa Communities: More than Ten Years of the CARE-Cargill Partnership” of transforming lives in cocoa communities, but it has too much of a generalistic brochure feel than fact-based analysis.

CARE, is a leading humanitarian organisation and their partnership with Cargill’s goes back more than 50 years and has focused on tackling long-term approaches to some of the world’s most pressing issues, such as low agricultural productivity, poor nutritional status, lack of access to formal markets and limited economic opportunities.

This seems like a lot, and after watching CARE’s International Program Director talk in 2014 about their plans and ambitions for what they wanted to achieve by 2020, the scope of change they wanted to introduce is pretty enormous.

But this is one of the problems – I don’t know where on that list of priorities, addressing the issues of cocoa farmers in West Africa sits, and the amount of quantitative information in the report is camouflaged by a lot of vague or qualitative information. The result is that the report requires careful reading to inform an opinion, but even then you are uncertain of any conclusion.

There is a lot of page space dedicated to the partnership’s successes and what they have learnt in supporting cocoa sustainability and building better lives for cocoa farmers and their families in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. There is no space to mention what didn’t work, or where the strategy needed to change.

This is a shame since the project has been running for over a decade, being transparent about the failures and the changes in strategy would build trust and help the industry understand the complexity of the problems.

CARE and Cargill have been working together in Ghana since 2008 and in Côte d’Ivoire since 2010 to combat the many challenges facing the cocoa sector.

Below, we list some of the highlights of the report as they have written it themselves.

The report explains that they have made a positive difference for Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa communities:

  • Well-governed communities: CARE and Cargill help communities develop action plans to mobilise funds and address pressing needs. To date, they have supported the establishment of 275 community action plans, resulting in more than 160 community infrastructure improvements in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, including the establishment of hydraulic pumps, construction of school facilities, and latrines.
  • Child labour prevention: CARE and Cargill have focused on preventive measures such as improved access to education for children. In Côte d’Ivoire, CARE and Cargill have trained parents and children on the harmful effects of child labor and created community development committees – governing bodies which aim to help communities develop solutions to challenges, including child labor. In Ghana, programs have focused on the development of school-related infrastructure, rehabilitation, and child labor sensitisation.
  • Building production capacity and diversifying income: Through the Cargill Cocoa Promise, Cargill is working with 132,000 smallholder cocoa farmers to support their business development in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Between 2008 and 2013, CARE’s agricultural training package, combined with greater access to extension services and strong market linkage, led to a 29% increase in average farmer income among project-supported farmers in Ghana.
  • Women’s empowerment: In Ghana, CARE and Cargill’s support has created profound change for women. Women supported in CARE-Cargill programs between 2016 and 2019 indicated a 30% increase in participation in household financial decision-making, an 18% increase in women holding formal leadership positions, and a 19% increase in opportunities to engage in formal decision-making spaces and to serve as leaders within the community.
  • Improving access to finance: Access to savings, loans, and other sources of credit is a core component to fostering prosperous and resilient communities. To date, CARE and Cargill have established 376 Village Savings Loan Associations (VSLAs) comprising 9,034 members (6,853 women) in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Those VSLA members have saved $301,186 while distributing $189,014 in loans.
  • Ensuring food security and nutrition for families: Over the last decade, CARE and Cargill worked with communities to promote healthy nutrition practices through training and demonstration, while ensuring food security through strengthening farmer livelihoods. In Côte d’Ivoire between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of food shocks (loss of harvest) in the CARE-Cargill intervention area was 16 per cent lower thanks to interventions, with some municipalities seeing a decrease of up to 65% in the frequency of food shocks. Households were also 33% more likely to eat fruits and vegetables three or more times per day than households outside the intervention area. Between 2013-2016, programming in Ghana also contributed to a 12.5% reduction in household food insecurity. More than a third of farmers attributed changes in access to food to an increased variety of local food, in addition to good farm health, increased revenue, training and education from CARE and Cargill and increased access to food on their own farms.

Harold Poelma, President of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate said:

Cargill has been working in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for decades. In 2012, we launched the Cargill Cocoa Promise – our commitment to enable farmers and their communities to achieve better incomes and living standards. Longstanding partnerships like the one with CARE are crucial in achieving our commitments.

They allow for sharing of data and learnings, help us to accelerate our impact and measure our progress.

CARE and Cargill have continued to evolve their approach over the past decade. The initial joint interventions focused on combating child labour, improving access to education, and economically empowering women.

After this, they also set out to improve access to agricultural inputs and access to financial services. Building on learnings, later programs also emphasized income diversification, improved nutrition and climate resilience.

Michelle Nunn, President and CEO at CARE said:

Our current programs place women at the heart of our interventions because we know that with the right resources, women have the power to transform entire cocoa growing communities.

Through an integrated approach to food and nutrition security, CARE’s work with Cargill focuses on providing women access to water, land, seeds, finance, and markets.

Additionally, these programs provide nutrition and social protection in times of crisis, which is especially important in light of the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic on cocoa growing communities.

All work towards a better outcome should be recognised and applauded, but the industry deserves more transparency from the big companies. To achieve that, there should be an agreed framework of metrics that stay consistent from one year to the next so that we can mark the progress or regression against those goals.

Reports like this one could be so much clearer so that they read less like an opportunity for good publicity, and more like valuable analysis.


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