Building an organic cocoa program in Ivory Coast

In 2016, the chocolate maker CEMOI wanted to develop the production of organic certified cocoa in Ivory Coast. As part of our intervention and in collaboration with Mr Gilles Roche (Cocoa expert), our action consisted in:

 

  • Identifying the best suited production area to the implementation of this project;

 

  • Explaining the principles of organic cocoa production and the project to the villagers and to the administrative authorities concerned;

 

  • Listing interested producers, identifying and geotagging their plots;

 

  • Writing and validating the 3-year business plan;

 

  • Validating the certification procedures with the certifying body (ECOCERT);

 

  • Launching the conversion's first steps of plantations into organic farming;

 

  • Setting up a dedicated technical team and organizing the producers' training;

 

  • Setting up the necessary logistics.

 

cacao bio Côte d'Ivoire- réunion
Cacao Bio Côte d'Ivoire-première journée collecte

Identification of the organic cocoa production area in Ivory Coast

The proximity of CEMOI's teams to producers, especially around the fermentation centers within the PACTS program, enabled identifying, a priori, a favorable area to the production of organic cocoa in the south-east of the country. The large number of villagers attending and actively participating to the first meetings explaining the principles and constraints of cocoa production in organic farming confirmed their interest for the project and the choice of that area.

 

This zone is located in the original cradle of Ivorian cocoa production. There, the plantations are old and the fertility of the soil has been degraded by long years of "full sun" production. Low yields undoubtedly explain the enthusiasm of producers tempted by farming practices that are more respectful of their environment. However, restoring the fertility of their plantations' soils and the perspective of a better remuneration for their cocoa beans appeared to be their main motivations for joining the organic cocoa project.

 

A producer census with the identification and geolocation (GPS) of the plots involved in the project confirmed the membership of 500 producers and allowed to confirm the launch of the program with an objective of 500 tons of cocoa certified "organic"  after 3 years. This census served as the basis for the definition of the Business Plan.

Cacao Bio Côte d'Ivoire- Réunion producteurs
cacao Bio Côte d'Ivoire- caisse de fermentation

The main lines of the organic cocoa program:

  • The program was design to address directly individual producers. The undertaking of each of these producers to the project's philosophy and their commitment to respect the instructions and related constraints were formalized through an individual contract;

 

  • Each producer was responsible for the maintenance of his cocoa plantations, for the compliance with the specifications in terms of cultivation practices, for reaping and breaking pods and for the transport of fresh beans to the place of purchase. Producers have been trained and coached by extension technicians recruited in the production area and supervised by two CEMOI agents. The respect of the recommended technical itinerary allows improving cocoa yields without the needs of synthetic phytosanitary products or mineral fertilizers. The technicians were also in charge of the plantations' inspection to guarantee that producers strictly complied with the specifications;

 

  • The producers undertook to deliver their cocoa from the plantations involved in the project to CEMOI and to strictly apply the technical itinerary and the recommendations of the technicians. The project undertook to buy all the cocoa produced on these plots as long as the beans met the minimum quality criteria set by the "Conseil du Cafe et du Cacao" and was also committed to pay a premium on top of the official minimum price;

 

  • The program kept control of fermentation and drying operations in order to guarantee the production of a cocoa with an aromatic profile and superior organoleptic qualities. Thus, the project was collecting fresh beans from producers. The project did not pick them up on the plantations. Producers must bring them to fixed collection points. The initial census and the geolocation of the plots made it possible to define collection points at no more than 10 km from the most distant producers. The fresh beans would be weighed at the collection point and loaded into vans that would evacuate them to the fermentation centers.

Cacao bio-Côte d'Ivoire -première journée collecte
Cacao bio Côte d'Ivoire-première journée collecte fèves fraiches
  • Initially, the fermentation centers only consisted in a simple hangar housing the fermentation boxes. The fermented beans would then be sent to the nearest PACTS's fermentation center where they would be dried. The construction of solar and hot air dryers, storage stores and offices were planned for a second step.

 

  • From the start, and at the initiative of the villages' authorities, an informal representation of organic producers was set up. An external partner was contracted to conduct activities to accompany the formalization of this organization. With the objective that producers will gradually take charge of the technical support to producers, their supply in authorized inputs and small equipment, the control of fermentation and drying operations with in particular the monitoring of the yields obtained and, more generally, the representation of producers. Ultimately, this organization should be able to offer other services to its members such as access to finance or insurance.