Calculating a living income benchmark for cocoa growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire

More than 50 key actors in the Ivorian cocoa sector came together to launch the living income benchmark study for cocoa-producing regions in Côte d’Ivoire. The workshop feeds into wider work to calculate living income benchmarks representing the cost of a decent standard of living for cocoa smallholders in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Recent fluctuations in the price of cocoa has affected smallholder incomes. Cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the two largest cocoa exporting countries, have felt the full effects of these price changes, driving home the need for living income benchmarks.

The purpose of the Côte d’Ivoire workshop was to engage actors, both with a stake in, and affected by, the outcomes of the benchmark for Côte d’Ivoire; building an understanding of the work and giving stakeholders an opportunity to provide input on key facets of the study’s scope and approach.

The workshop began with a welcome speech by Drissa Traoré from the Ivorian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. He spoke about investing in smallholder facilities and bettering traceability and product quality as steps towards improving the livelihoods of cocoa farming households. He also introduced the living income concept, the Living Income Community of Practice and the goals of the benchmark study.

Michelle Bhattacharyya then presented the methodology that would be used to produce the benchmark. This methodology, developed by Richard and Martha Anker, is used to calculate the cost of a decent standard of living, which can in turn be used as a benchmark for living income. The methodology is grounded in international decency standards whilst taking the local context into account. The Anker methodology is also applied across benchmarks produced by the Global Living Wage Coalition (GLWC).

This was followed by a Q&A session with Michelle, the researchers from CIRES (who will calculate the living income benchmark for Côte d’Ivoire) and Levison Chiwaula from Malawi University (who conducted the actual and living income assessment for tea producing regions in Malawi).

In preparation for the benchmark, a scoping study was carried out by cocoa expert Friedel Hütz-Adams of Südwind Institute, who presented the results. The presentation and following discussion focused on which regions would be used to conduct field work for the main study. Based on the data, four regions were offered as locations which best represent typical cocoa farmers across the cocoa growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire. But during the workshop, participants who had extensive on-the-ground experience and local knowledge were able to clarify a fifth region which should be included. Hence a total of five locations were endorsed as representative locations for the study.

During the final part of the workshop, the participants were split into four groups according to the type of actor they represented (private sector, government, researcher and NGO/standard system). Each group identified their roles/responsibilities, discussed which stakeholders need to be involved in order to reach a living income and identified specific activities each group could implement.

The private sector actors discussed how to translate the findings from the upcoming gap analysis into concrete activities, with the diversification of income sources as an important factor. They stressed the point that collaboration with other key players such as the government and NGOs is vital.

Governmental representatives agreed that more and clear communication is necessary in order to spread understanding of the practical use of the benchmark within governmental bodies. Furthermore, it would be helpful to spread understanding of the factors that improve income. They acknowledged that there are not enough subsidies to reduce the costs for farmers and support them in the diversification of income sources.

Standard-setting organisations recognised their role in promoting the concept of living income and ensuring the benchmark is applied within their standard system. They could also develop projects in order to close the gap and help farmers to understand the indicators.

For more information head to www.living-income.com or refer to our project overview document. For specific questions about the Côte d’Ivoire benchmark please email Friederike Martin (friederike.martin@giz.de) and for questions on the Ghana benchmark please email Stephanie Daniels (sdaniels@sustainablefood.org).