Cargill releases Decade of Impact report with global charity CARE on cocoa sustainability

The Cargill group has unveiled its latest report with global humanitarian organisation CARE on progress assisting cocoa communities in Ghana and Ivory Coast, including targeting support for women, and tackling child labour, writes Neill Barston.

As Confectionery Production examined with the business in a recent exclusive video interview, its partnership with the charitable body over more than a decade has proved a significant point of focus for the company.

While acknowledging that there remained notable challenges ahead in the wake of the NORC at the University of Chicago study highlighting that child labour in particular still remained a concerning factor in supply chains with 1.56 million children still exposed to labour in west Africa, the global agricultural and ingredients firm believed that collective action from industry, civil society and governments was having an impact.

Titled “A Decade of Impact in Cocoa Communities: More than Ten Years of the CARE-Cargill Partnership,” Cargill’s latest report showed that since 2008, nine programmes have been implemented across Ghana and Ivory Coast to address critical challenges faced by cocoa farming communities.

These issues included addressing harmful child labor practices, women’s economic empowerment, access to financial services, nutrition and education. To date, these cocoa development programs have reached 236,589 people, 62,459 directly and 174,130 indirectly in 323 communities – of  those reached, 111,167 are women.

As Cargill noted, West Africa is the largest producer of cocoa; with the two nations representing 60 percent of the world’s cocoa. However, while cocoa smallholder farmers make up the backbone of both the Ivorian and Ghanaian economies and contribute significantly to the global cocoa supply, many still live in poverty.

Farmers face critical challenges such as limited economic opportunity; sub-optimal agricultural production; lack of access to finances and services; persistent inequality; malnutrition; climate change; lack of access to education; risk of child labor; and insufficient water and sanitation practices.

Among the major areas of focus since schemes in the region began 13 years ago in Ghana (and 11 years ago in Ivory Coast), core topic areas have centred on driving positive change on these considerable issues.

This includes developing well-governed communities, aiming to assist creation of action plans to mobilise funds and address pressing needs. To date, they have 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.

On child labour, they have focused on preventive measures such as improved access to education for children. In Ivory Coast, 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 labour. In Ghana, programs have focused on the development of school-related infrastructure, rehabilitation, and child labour sensitisation.

Furthermore, building production capacity and diversifying income has been another key topic. 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 percent increase in average farmer income among project-supported farmers in Ghana.

In addition, women’s empowerment has been an additional valuable focus of the report –  In Ghana, the partnership has reportedly created profound change for women, who have been supported specifically through the combined programmes. Between 2016 and 2019, results indicated a 30 percent increase in participation in household financial decision-making, an 18 percent increase in women holding formal leadership positions, and a 19 percent increase in opportunities to engage in formal decision-making spaces and to serve as leaders within the community.

Cargill releases Decade of Impact report with global charity CARE on cocoa sustainability

Improving access to finance is another notable issue, namely access to savings, loans, and other sources of credit is a core component to fostering prosperous and resilient communities. To date, these joint schemes 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. Over the last decade, there has been notable work with communities to promote healthy nutrition practices through training and demonstration, while ensuring food security through strengthening farmer livelihoods.

In Ivory Coast between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of food shocks (loss of harvest) in the CARE-Cargill intervention area were 16 percent lower thanks to interventions, with some municipalities seeing a decrease of up to 65 percent in the frequency of food shocks. Households were also 33 percent more likely to eat fruits and vegetables three or more times per day than households outside of the intervention area. Between 2013-2016, programming in Ghana also contributed to a 12.5 percent reduction in household food insecurity. More than a third of farmers attributed changes in access to food to increased variety of local food, in addition to good farm health, increased revenue, training and education from the programmes’ combined efforts and increased access to food on their own farms.

Harold Poelma, President of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, commented on the results of the latest report. He 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.”

Cargill releases Decade of Impact report with global charity CARE on cocoa sustainability

In addition, the two organisations have continued to evolve their approach over the past decade. The initial joint interventions focused on combating child labor, improving access to education, and economically empowering women.

After this, CARE and Cargill also set out to improve access to agricultural inputs and access to financial services. Building on learnings, later programs also emphasised income diversification, improved nutrition and climate resilience. CARE and Cargill, along with its other partners and global customers, have enabled continued learning to ensure positive impact.

“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,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO at CARE.

In addition to its work in West Africa, CARE has partnered with Cargill to invest in the communities they operate for more than sixty years. Since its inception, the partnership has reached more than 2.7 million people through 25 projects in 11 countries, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mali, Nicaragua, India, and Indonesia.

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