Estimating living income of Ghanaian cocoa farmers

More than 50 key stakeholders in Ghana’s cocoa industry came together to launch a pivotal study aiming to calculate the cost of a decent standard of living for smallholders in Ghana's cocoa regions.

The launch workshop, part of the Living Income Community of Practice benchmarks for cocoa smallholders in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, aimed to build understanding and support for the Ghana benchmark pilot and allow stakeholders to contribute to the study.

The workshop kicked off with an introduction to the living income concept, the Living Income Community of Practice and the goals of the study. Noura Hanna, from UTZ/Rainforest Alliance, explained how the benchmark for calculating the decent cost of living would help to bridge the income gap and drive improvements around the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

This was followed by an overview of the methodology to calculate the benchmark, which was presented by the research team comprising of Sally Smith, Professor Daniel Sarpong and enumerators from the University of Ghana. This methodology is based on an approach developed by Richard and Martha Anker (formerly of the ILO and WHO respectively). The Anker methodology is a well-regarded and widely-used method which is grounded in international standards of decency and is used to calculate the benchmarks produced by the Global Living Wage Coalition.

The research team explained that the benchmark would be calculated by breaking down costs of living into different components, namely food, housing, other expenses such as healthcare and education and a margin for unforeseen events. They then described how the cost of these components would be calculated using a variety of methods such as focus group exercises, model diets, valuation of decent housing and household expenditure ratios. Finally, they highlighted how this approach is specifically designed to meet the decency requirements of international standards whilst taking the local context into consideration.

The research methodology used encourages consultation with stakeholders at every step of the process. In this way, those most affected will be able to provide input and clarify issues directly with the research team. As such, this workshop was a great opportunity to garner stakeholder input on cocoa-producing locations for the study. Participants who had extensive on-the-ground experience and local knowledge were able to clarify which locations best represent typical cocoa farmers across Ghana’s cocoa-growing regions.

Funding partners and supporting organisations, including the World Cocoa Foundation, Cargill, GIZ, UTZ/Rainforest Alliance, the Ghanaian Ministry of Employment and cocoa producer groups Kuapa Kokoo and the Cocoa Abrabopa Association, shared how the benchmark could be used in practice. For instance, experts explained that the report could inform national agricultural policy, provide an agreed reference point for stakeholders and support review outcomes of existing efforts to improve incomes to inform improvements.

Samuel Quaque Noble from Cargill Ghana said: “This data will give us a perspective to see if what we are currently doing is working for smallholders and to what extent our attempts to increase incomes are working. The study will help us to measure how far we are going in our project design and implementation.”

Finally, representatives from the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) presented a study to research existing incomes and typical characteristics of cocoa-growing households in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. This was discussed as comparison data with the benchmark, once completed, to review gaps between existing and decent incomes and to work towards solutions to address these income gaps. 

For more information about the benchmark study email Adam Romo,, or visit the Living Income website at