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Sustainable Cocoa

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Although we are a relatively small player in the global cocoa market, we are dedicated to ending extreme poverty in cocoa growing communities.  Robern Menz is 100% committed to working closely with our supply chain and will be sourcing 100% of our cocoa sustainably by 2020.

We are currently working in collaboration with cocoa supplier Barry Callebaut, the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, cocoa farmers and their communities in West Africa.  We are devoted to ensuring our supply chain is sustainable, resilient and will allow us to meet increasing consumer demands into the future.

Through our relationship with the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, it is our mission to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their communities through sustainable, entrepreneurial farming, improved productivity and community development.

The challenges around cocoa are complex and varied but in order to be part of the solution, we must first acknowledge the issues.

The challenges faced by cocoa farmers and their communities

Cocoa is typically produced by smallholder farmers in remote equatorial areas. Most of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, an area that faces the industry’s most vital sustainability challenges. Among them: limited knowledge and understanding of good agricultural practices; aging farms and depleted soil; the unpredictable effects of climate change; and a lack of financing options to invest in productivity activities all of which may drive the next generation away from cocoa farming. Further to this, communities are challenged with lack of infrastructure and services, including schools, literacy and vocational training, access to safe water, and basic healthcare services. Gender imbalance also affects the sustainability of cocoa farming communities, with women having limited opportunities to build skills and generate income.

60% - Percentage of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire living below the poverty line

51 years-old - Average age of farmers in West Africa

30–40% - Percentage of crops lost to diseases

The Cocoa Horizons Foundation helps to create thriving communities. Two ways in which they do this are by training farmers, enabling them to grow cocoa sustainably and responsibly, increase yields and improve farmer family livelihood; and by paying a farmer premium, directly increasing income so that farmers can invest in their farms and communities. To address the challenges and achieve real progress, the Foundation’s solutions-based approach aligns with the industry’s CocoaAction strategy and focuses on two key pillars: productivity and community.

Productivity

In order to safeguard the future of cocoa, the current yield per hectare must be increased, helping farmers earn a better income and ensuring a lasting supply. Better cocoa production practices are needed to help safeguard household incomes and ensure that cocoa farming is a viable option for the next generation of growers, including young women. The Foundation focuses intently on training and support designed to improve productivity – the first step toward improving livelihoods of farmers and their communities, and eliminating extreme poverty.

Farmer training

Accreditation of trainers
Cocoa Horizon Foundation farmer trainers go through an intensive accreditation process covering agronomy, farming as a business and adult education. This improves their knowledge and confidence and raises their level of credibility. They can then lead by example and encourage the adoption of best practices.

Farmer Field Schools
Accredited trainers conduct Farmer Field Schools (FFS) throughout the year to coach groups of cocoa farmers to adopt good agricultural practices in order to help them increase their yield, income and livelihood.

FFS offer varied training modules to perpetuate knowledge sharing and serve as an incentive for farmers to regularly attend. In addition to agricultural topics, the training modules will also incorporate topics that are instrumental to ensure farmer resiliency, such as functional literacy and business skills.

Demonstration plots
Demonstration plots encourage learning to be applied by showcasing a range of innovative farming methods – including composting, pruning, fertilizer use and crop protection, as well as rehabilitation and crop diversification. These plots are instrumental in demonstrating the benefits of these techniques to the farmers and encouraging them to implement new and effective practices.

Curricula
Within a three-year cycle, all registered farmers are trained in order to build capacity and raise awareness of sustainable cocoa production practices. The training will cover the following topics: Good agricultural practices, Functional literacy, Child protection, Traceability, Quality, Health and Safety, Farmer support.

Farmer premiums
As a customer of Barry Callebaut’s sustainable HORIZONS cocoa and chocolate products, Robern Menz will pay a premium on the volumes we buy, part of which will be paid directly to farmers and farmer groups, increasing their income and enabling them to invest in their farms and communities. The rest will be used to further empower cocoa farmers by supporting the implementation of our cocoa sustainability activities.

Farm services delivery model
This model facilitates access to technical knowledge (pruning experts), inputs (such as crop protection products and fertilizer) and planting material by partnering with farmer groups and input suppliers.

Farmer Financing
Developing innovative financing solutions and savings support enables farmers to invest in their farm and productivity. For example, mobile banking technology has been developed, which allows farmers to be paid remotely, safely securing their transactions and encouraging them to save.

We believe productivity improvement is the primary step to increasing farmer livelihoods and making cocoa farming an attractive and viable business for future generations.

Community

Cocoa Horizons, along with their partners, take a long-term view, working with farmers to improve cocoa production practices while at the same time addressing critical social challenges in communities where farmers and their families live. We believe this combined approach offers the best potential to increase farm productivity, increase household incomes, and improve family and community livelihoods. The Cocoa Horizons Community Development arm works with communities and farmer groups to ascertain needs and contribute solutions in four key areas: education, child protection, women’s empowerment and health.

Education
Education is the cornerstone of development. In addition to promoting school enrolment and attendance, the Cocoa Horizons Foundation contributes to infrastructure when communities lack adequate primary and secondary school facilities.

This includes building and furnishing classrooms, building and furnishing canteens for school meals, constructing separate toilets for boys and girls, providing solar panels for lighting, and building teacher housing to attract and retain qualified staff. Working to help meet the expressed needs of communities and farmer groups, they aim to provide more accessible, safe, and adequately equipped learning environments for children and youth in cocoa-growing areas.

Child Protection
Our vision of thriving cocoa communities is one in which all children can attend school and are protected from harmful work. Together with their partners, the Cocoa Horizons Foundation promotes the importance of schooling in their farmer training, and works with communities to raise awareness about child labour, better understand its causes, and develop constructive solutions.

Women’s Empowerment
Women’s inclusion in training, farmer group administrative and management activities, and other business development opportunities are key priorities. The Cocoa Horizons Foundation supports literacy and business skills training, and works with women and community-based women’s groups to create income generation opportunities.

Health
Farmers, families and communities need easy access to clean, safe water. However, this basic life necessity is often elusive in rural communities. The Cocoa Horizons Foundation works with communities to provide boreholes and water filters for schools and households in remote areas. They also build school toilets, promote WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) training, and support initiatives to improve farmer access to basic health care services, including a health insurance program, vaccination campaigns, and free medical check-ups.

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