Fairtrade partnership: Côte d’Ivoire cocoa farmers take key steps towards data ownership, ‘first mile’ traceability

 Six Ivorian cocoa cooperatives are partnering with leaders in the agriculture digital solutions tech space, a specialized capacity-building organization, and Fairtrade to launch a pilot project aimed at building data systems that are owned by the cooperatives themselves, provide important information about where their cocoa comes from, and strengthen their position as trading partners.

The newly launched project starts with six Fairtrade certified cooperatives, with a total of 43,930 farmer members, to implement an internal management system, or IMS. Such systems collect data on members’ farms, production, and sales, and enable them to manage prominent risks such as deforestation.

Once the systems are implemented, cooperatives will be able to map their members’ farms and track what they buy from each farm – known as ‘first mile’ traceability. This is increasingly important as cocoa producers seek greater oversight of their businesses and the ability to assure buyers of how and where their cocoa is grown. The project is also exploring how IMS information can also increase the cooperatives’ and their members’ ability to access bank loans.

While cocoa cooperatives often already collect, store and report certain information to their buyers, they often don’t have their own dedicated systems that match their own information needs and data collection processes. The Fairtrade project was developed to ensure that cooperatives will own the data and associated benefits, regardless of the commercial relationships they are in. Each cooperative can use their system with multiple commercial partners rather than having to use each partner’s system, or be tied to one specific commercial partner.

“Information is power. Cocoa cooperatives have to collect and report an incredible amount of data, often into systems owned by other entities. But, more often than not, they do not receive the full benefits of that information,” says Jon Walker, Senior Advisor for Cocoa at Fairtrade International. “This project is unique in that it puts the farmer and the cooperative at the centre, so they have a system that meets their own needs and they have the capacity to control and benefit from that information.”

Recognizing that cooperatives start from different levels of readiness for these systems, the pilot project takes a dual track approach. Three of the cooperatives are first focusing on capacity building, with partners Think! Data Services and Knowledge & Skills readying them for the introduction of IMS software. The other three cooperatives are already further along in their readiness to adopt a more robust system, and are moving directly to implement an advanced Farmforce IMS software solution and build their capacity to use it. Based on the lessons learned in the pilot phase, Fairtrade Africa will roll the project out to an additional 40 cooperatives and provide ongoing support. The full initiative is jointly funded via the Equité 2 program by Fairtrade, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), the Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM), Max Havelaar France, and the participating local cooperatives for a total investment of €565,000.

“We were looking for a digital solution for the development of our business, the service to our members and especially the storage of our data, when Fairtrade presented us the IMS project with Farmforce,” said Traore Ousmane, Chairman of the ECAKOOG cooperative. “We will have our own data available. This is a great relief for ECAKOOG and there is always hope with Fairtrade.”

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