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Community / Land projects / Improving yields and quality standards in the Sierra Leonean cocoa sector

Improving yields and quality standards in the Sierra Leonean cocoa sector

€0

01/13 - 03/20

Completed

This project is part of

General

Theobroma International B.V. (est. 1922 - an international cocoa trader) and Balmed Holdings Ltd., Commodities Trading Company Limited and Capitol Trading Company (SL) Ltd. (all three cocoa buyers), aim to act upon the business opportunity of exporting certified cocoa from Sierra Leone.In Sierra Leone, most of the cocoa farms are old and overgrown and need good maintenance and investment in younger trees to improve productivity. As many youngsters have fled to urban areas there is a labour shortage of young adults to properly rehabilitate and maintain the farms necessary for a sustainable income. As a result yields are as low as 150 kg per hectare (compared to potential yields of 800 kg per hectare) and quality of the cocoa is low due to bad drying and fermentation methods.The project aims to provide a solution to improve both quality and quantity of Sierra Leonean cocoa by introducing the 'Block Farming model' in the Eastern Province.In this concept, the new joint venture will lease fallow land from land owners for cocoa plantations on which youth groups carry out the work and receive trainings so they will be able to take over management of the plantations after eight years. The model is set up like a shareholder model where the workers, the land owners and the joint venture each receive 1/3 of the harvest. All cocoa produced on the block farms is sold to the joint venture. In this agroforestry model farmers are also able to do intercropping on the cocoa plantations. The joint venture will provide inputs (seedlings, tools, boots etc) and train the farmers in cultivation techniques, management of a farm and post- harvest techniques. Plantations will be certified (UTZ, Rainforest alliance or Fair trade), assuring the farmers and landowners a higher income.The project will introduce tray fermentation of cocoa to Sierra Leone. Cocoa will grow under an Integrated Pest Management System. A computerised farm-gate based traceability system will be established which provides further opportunities for the upgrading of food safety and accountability systems in the supply chain.Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)Land lease is a sensible issue in Sierra Leone. Recently several foreign investors leased large pieces of land for agricultural production. Local NGOs have been criticising some of those large land deals, commenting that the local people were not informed well and not compensated well enough. In the block farming model, partners will have several meetings with the landowners and chiefs of the villages before they sign the land lease documents. The lease will be for a period of 20 years, while the landowners stay the owners of the land and will receive 1/3 of the future profit of the cocoa trees and 10% of the intercropping. After 20 years the landowners can decide whether they want to renew the contract.The UTZ Certified standards, which contain obligatory regulations, controls and measures to eradicate child and forced labour will apply to this project. The agroforestry concept guarantees the conservation of biodiversity.All partners have stated to offer their staff good employment standards and secondary benefits and that no discrimination of job applicants, staff, suppliers or farmers is tolerated.Impact• Employment and working conditionsThe joint venture will employ 56 staff mostly on a full time basis to supervise the block farming activities and to run the processing centres.The staff will receive above average salaries and will work in a clean and safe working environment. Staff will enjoy other benefits such as health insurance, transport to work, clean drinking water. Children of employees will be encouraged to go to school. A medical post on the block farm will provide medical care. Staff will be trained extensively to be able to carry out their tasks, to increase job satisfaction and to improve career perspectives. When necessary adult literacy courses are provided.• Innovation / Transfer of knowledgeThe Block Farming method is a new way of organising and investing in cocoa cultivation in Sierra Leone.• Chain effectsThe project will not supply to local customers nor consumers. Although some processing of cocoa has been initiated in Sierra Leone, in the near future cocoa will stay an export crop.The proposal has made a comparison with average farmers and calculated that a block farmer who is contracted by the project should be able to earn a total net income after 8 years which is triple that of the average farmer in Sierra Leone:The farmer will benefit of higher yields on a larger piece of land he is now able to farm. Besides as quality goes up he will receive a higher price for his cocoa. As the table shows farming income will definitely rise.However, improvement of yields from 200 kg to 800 kg.• Impact on the sectorWhen successful, this project will give an example of how investments in the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone can be done, while working with small farmers (and not adapting the large scale plantations model). The joint venture partners expect that other companies will approach them for assistance to help them implement the block farming model (also in other crops).Some international organisations, such as GIZ and FAO, have showed a great interest in the model.• EnvironmentAn Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be conducted for the abandoned agricultural land the joint venture will lease. The joint venture has stated that it will attach great value to promoting sustainable cocoa production, biodiversity, soil fertility and minimised use of agro-chemicals and fertilisers.• Position of womenEqual employment opportunities will apply to both men and women. However due to the nature of the business, it is expected that more men will be contracted. Of the 56 staff positions, 15% is foreseen to be occupied by women.During training activities , the joint venture will also focus on female cocoa growers. Also, female growers will be trained to be lead farmers.• Impact on food safetyThe project directly contributes to food security as the farmers will plant other crops in between the cocoa trees. Those other crops, such as plantain, cassava, fruit trees and coconuts are meant for own consumption or sales on the local market. Farmers and landowners share the income of the intercrop: farmers get 90% and landowners 10% of the intercrop.• Impact on waterThe project will dig three water wells to provide its staff and block farmers with clean drinking water. Community development projects will also involve access to clean drinking water.

Objectives

To set up a joint venture, which will establish a commercial high yield cocoa farm of 1,000 ha. This block farm will include a central collection and storage warehouse and six farmer development centres for drying, fermentation & storage. The farm will em

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