Fair trade certification schemes have made a positive impact on promoting sustainable farming practices. However, both African businesses and environmentally conscious consumers often find the schemes are challenging and confusing. No African government has signed up to champion agricultural certification.
Furthermore, the bulk of the environmental impact from agriculture is coming from the lowest-performing companies in terms of output. Typically, these companies are not the focus of certification programmes.
An innovative new approach, where community members are trained to collect data on sustainable practices, aims to move beyond certification and drive real change across the sector.
We aim to go on and create a new generation of entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. Our entrepreneurship endeavour is being done in conjunction with a university in West Africa. It is a regional university that serves eight countries under the banner of the Economic and Monetary Union for West Africa. The university is based in Dakar Senegal (CESAG) and provides expertise as well as knowledge capital to our students. We, on the other hand, work with our partners to fund activities that have to do with coaching and mentoring our first cohort of students.
We have built partnerships extensively in different countries and are working to develop new ones. It is also important for us to keep developing our entrepreneurship programme. We are looking to develop partnerships with more universities so that we can improve the programme progressively. Contact has been established with a few universities and they are all upbeat about the idea.
Cocoa is not just a cash crop for us; it has also become part of our politics. The cocoa sector feeds about 800,000 people in the country and issues that affect the industry can be quite emotive. Unfortunately, our industry has suffered a dip in production in recent times. The dip in production has been occasioned by climatic changes as well as factors such as disease. The government has put in place measures whose impact will start being felt in a few years with the expected rise in volumes of production.
The government is putting a focus on increasing production while also encouraging diversification in the overall agriculture sector. Adding value to our cocoa is also part of our national strategy. Value addition will help increase the value of our product, boost our standing in the global cocoa industry, and lead to job creation. Diversification will also see us improve the agricultural sector and boost our national revenue.
Recent studies criticising the global chocolate industry for exploitative practices have concerned ethical consumers. Cocoa farmers only earn about 6% of the chocolate industry’s total revenues. Leading chocolate companies have since 2001 made pledges to end widespread abusive labour practices, but continue to fall short.
In Ghana, local firm Federated Commodities has shown it is only by improving the cocoa supply chain, with experienced local oversight, that ethical, sustainable and profitable cocoa and chocolate industries can exist. CEO Hajiya Maria Adamu-Zibo is ready to form international partnerships to take the Ghanian cocoa sector forwards.