Ecookim, Ivory Coast
DefinitionDevising project idea, defining the aim and main components
DesignSpecifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
Open to FinancingSearching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
ImplementationExecution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
MaintenanceOperational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
Scaling UpScaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.
Ninety-percent of natural forests in Ivory Coast have been deforested since its independence. The main driver has been the expansion of cocoa production. As a result, areas previously filled by biodiverse, thriving forest ecosystems are now covered by monoculture, full-sun cocoa plantations with sparse biodiversity and limited provision of important ecosystem services.
Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and ECOOKIM – an Ivorian union of farmer cooperatives – have recognized this problem and decided to act upon it in the context of The Technical Assistance Facility to the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund (TAF LDN) which is managed by IDH. They have engaged reNature, where Benoît Clément will lead this project that will support the creation of fit-for-purpose agroforestry designs together with a management and implementation plan. Progreso Foundation is closing the circle by providing assistance on related suitable business models.
Investment-ready through Agroforestry
Sustainability means long-term finance viability. This notion is increasingly recognized by investors in the agricultural sector. More and more investment seeking companies are required to adhere to environmental and social standards to successfully apply sustainable practices.
Agroforestry and regenerative agriculture are improving land-use management approaches for farming organizations that help comply with these standards. Providing environmental, social as well as economic benefits, they support a positive outlook of the future—a major piece of importance to impact investors.
With more than 31,000 smallholder farmers in its network, ECOOKIM wants to maximize its sustainability potential. The farmer union aims to obtain investment-readiness through adopting these regenerative agricultural practices.
Context Designs for Farmer Segments
With such a large number of participating farmers and cooperatives, adopting new farming practices on a large scale can be a challenge. The smallholders are organized in more than 20 different cooperatives and have different plot sizes in different geographical locations and socio-economic contexts. This requires the need for agroforestry designs that account for this level of diversity whilst still being applicable on a large scale.
In order to incorporate these potential differences between the different cooperatives and their farmers, for instance in regards to land size, geography or local market structures, the project will categorize farmers into segments. The agroforestry designs will then be based on the different segments. This will enable the creation of a small number of fit-for-purpose designs applicable to a much larger number of farmers whilst ensuring that they will fit the farmers’ needs.
The same applies for management and implementation guidelines and that will be delivered additionally to the designs.
Diversifying Cocoa Farms
The provided designs will follow the principles of regenerative farming. In contrast to most currently managed cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, they will allow for greater diversity of life on and around the farm, improved soil health as well as additional socio-economic benefits for the smallholder farmers.
Multiple crop species with varying lifecycles and benefits (economic, social, and environmental) will be integrated into existing cocoa plantations. These will be selected based on the local geophysical surroundings (climate, soil, vegetation, etc.), market research, climate projections, as well as the requirements and preferences of the farmers themselves.
For example, fruit trees and other crops can add to local diets and produce valuable produce for local as well as international markets. Biomass trees can provide fuelwood as well as biological material to cover, protect, and improve soil fertility. Additionally, bigger trees or palms can provide shade, whilst the space below the canopy can be used to grow other shade-loving plants.
A Feasible Agroforestry Business Model
Frequently mentioned doubts about regenerative practices are concerned with financial viability, especially in the context of larger agricultural organizations. Crucially important—next to the feasibility and suitability of the design—is the development of appropriate business models.
Through the creation of standardized designs, estimations can be made on the production of additional commodities next to cocoa. With enough information on relevant markets feasible business strategies can be developed through which the farmers as well as ECOOKIM will benefit.
The project further contains the exploration of additional business opportunities next to the marketization of additional diverse food produce. With the help of Progreso, possibilities will be explored, such as carbon credits, payment for ecosystem services and potential market premiums to ensure long lasting positive impact for all stakeholders.