Solidaridad has released its 2020 annual report, which covers 11 sectors globally, including cocoa. The annual reports from Solidaridad are available through their website as an interactive online tool.

This was the second review of an annual report I wrote this week – the first being a review of Mondelēz International’s ‘Snacking Made Right’ Agenda, and I wondered ‘who am I to be critiquing anyone’s report. It should be said that it is much easier to criticise another’s work than actually create something oneself. So, I hope the authors take what I write as constructive, and possibly not representative of any demographic other than myself.

A Brief Analysis of the Report

In full disclosure, Bartalks has worked with Solidaridad in Liberia, but in that instance, Solidaridad provided assistance on a project Bartalks initiated with VADEMCO to give cocoa farmers the opportunity to actually taste some chocolate, in some cases for the first time. I probably have a bit of a soft spot for the organisation, so this article is likely to be biased.

The Annual Report is not divided into commodities, and it wouldn’t make sense to do so since the organisation has a cocoa commodity section on the website. Since Solidaridad is active in the major cocoa-producing countries, it is of interest to me how effective the organisation is running, where they see their priorities and any predictions or challenges they may highlight.

Story-Centric Writing, but Metrics Could Improve

I do like their web-based reporting structure. I found it easy to find the sections I was looking for. However, inside those sections, the report weaves numbers within a dialogue. In fact, the style of the report is very approachable and story-centric, but I would love to see tabulated KPI’s that establish the organisation’s objectives.

If the same KPI’s persist from year to year, it would be easy to see if Solidaridad is meeting its objectives or if they’re failing in some part. We’ve seen Tony’s Chocolonely’s annual Fair Report identify areas where they ‘missed’ targets or got things wrong perhaps, and I’d like to see Solidaridad be brave and follow suit.

I would also like to see Solidaridad have a glossary so that we can understand what they mean in the context of their reporting for any particular term. For example, their Achievements for 2020 include 2 million hectares under sustainable management. I can guess what sustainable means, but it’s a term that is abused and would benefit from a clear definition.

Some other metrics are more opaque, such as 147 multi-stakeholder platforms and dialogues initiated, or participated in. (is that a zoom call?)

But the writing style is plain English! The authors eschew flowery pseudo-science wording and acronyms for simplicity. It works, and I didn’t find any part of it difficult to understand. Even the audited accounts used a chart of accounts and nominal codes that were simple and descriptive, making the financial performance easy to understand.

I also love the maps – they’re big and easy to read; communicating the important data at a glance. The site is fast too.

Cocoa Related Highlights

Solidaridad has focused on helping smallholder farmers improve yields, and in getting financing to SME’s – something that is especially important during the pandemic.

The report’s authors highlight the story of Kwabena Assan Mends who runs Emfed Farms and Trading Company Limited, a rural service centre operator at Assin Fosu in the Central region of Ghana.

Through a program organised by Solidaridad, Mends was able to help demonstrate the viability of his business necessary for securing finance. Emfed Farms and Trading provides poor regional farmers with cocoa farm management services on a credit basis and was suffering after Covid struck.

Solidaridad’s Cocoa Operations

Lack of Access and Training Inputs

Smallholders produce 95% of all cocoa, usually on plots of 1-3 hectares. Yet these smallholders and producer organizations cannot easily access training, inputs, markets, or financing. This leads to either a complete lack of inputs, or a misuse of the inputs that are obtained, which in turn results in low, poor quality yields.

Gender Exclusion

Although it’s not uncommon for women who head households in West Africa and Latin America to grow cocoa, they’re often left out of farmer cooperatives and organizations. This can have a negative impact on yields, families and communities.


Forests are cleared to make room for cocoa farms, reducing the biodiversity of the very ecosystems on which farms depend. A reduction in biodiversity lowers the amount of nutrients in the soil, which in turn reduces yields. The result of this is usually further deforestation to gain access to more fertile soil.

When I started as a producer I didn’t have much training. I only grew my crops, but I didn’t know how to deal directly with the crops. Since Solidaridad came up with his project I have learned a lot. – Francisco Cruz, cocoa farmer, Tuerê, Brazil


  1. Hi Nick! Great and fair analysis of our report. Will certainly take your recommendations on board for next year. I love you idea to add a glossary for example.

    Thank you for taking the time to look at this so thoroughly and write about it.

    Best regards,

    (global communication manager for Solidaridad)

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