Taking Ivorian cocoa to the higher level

Taking Ivorian cocoa to the higher level

Over the next three years, Colruyt Group and Rikolto will collaborate with Ivorian cooperative Entreprise Cooperative de Saint Paul, Fairtrade Belgium, the chocolate processor Puratos and UGent to make Colruyt Group's private label chocolate sustainable from bean to shelve.
This project is part of the following focus areas:

Today, 70% of global cocoa production is sourced from West Africa, and within this region the vast majority of cultivated cocoa fields are located in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Here, the growth in cocoa production has led to deforestation, and as a result there are almost no virgin forests left in Ivory Coast today, while in Ghana they are at risk due to agricultural expansion in protected areas. The other big problems in the cocoa sector in West Africa is child labour on cocoa plantations, and children not attending school.

In December 2018, the Beyond Chocolate Charter was launched by the Belgian government as a joint initiative by the Belgian chocolate and retail sector, civil society, social investors and universities to make Belgian chocolate more sustainable. This industry-wide commitment aims to tackle child labour, combat deforestation, and ensure a viable income for local cocoa producers. The Belgian chocolate sector aims to achieve 100% sustainably produced chocolate by 2025 and a living income for all cocoa farmers by 2030.

This project focuses on income diversification and entrepreneurship of farmers as crucial elements in securing and sustaining a living income for cocoa-growing households in Ivory Coast. In this chain-wide collaboration, Rikolto joins forces with Colruyt, Puratos, Fairtrade Belgium, Ghent University, Agro-Insight, Access Agriculture and Ivorian cocoa cooperative Entreprise Cooperative de Saint Paul (ECSP). Each partner in this consortium brings critical perspectives and experiences to the table to put this integrated approach into practice.

With the new project in Ivory Coast, we are taking up the major challenge of setting up truly sustainable cocoa production in Africa. This is the first time for Rikolto that we will be working in Ivory Coast.

Abdulahi Aliyu Director of Rikolto’s international cocoa programmes

We will work closely with two communities of Daregba and Colonel with the aim of improving the living conditions of 102 cocoa producing households in the area, by increasing biodiversity and climate change resilience. The project will also test the living income model to prove its viability for large-scale implementation in the cocoa sector.


  • Currently, cocoa production in both Daregba and Colonel is at an average of 400 kg per hectare distributed over 250 hectares. Our goal is to increase productivity up to 800 kg/ha without increasing overall cocoa production. We want to intensify some of the existing production systems to produce more cocoa on a smaller land area, allowing farmers to cultivate 50 ha with other food crops, reforest 50 ha, and use the remaining 150 ha to grow cocoa in agroforestry systems.

  • Due to the lack of a proper fermentation and drying process for cocoa beans, the quality of cocoa remains a challenge for cocoa producers. Poor fermentation and improper post-harvest handling processes deny cocoa farmers access to additional income in the form of a premium on quality cocoa beans. In addition, as most cocoa growing households’ farm size and productivity levels are below the expected levels for generating a living income, we will promote income diversification and entrepreneurship among cocoa farmers in both communities to increase their resilience.

  • Access to finance continues to be a major challenge for cocoa farmers who want to invest in their farms or income diversification activities.

  • Lack of a professional agricultural service sector in cocoa growing areas leaves cocoa growers with no option but to engage children to maintain their cocoa farms, making it one of the drivers of child labour in cocoa producing communities. Therefore, reducing the incidence of child labour through tackling the lack of services will be one of the primary goals in the project.

  • Without decent employment opportunities, young people migrate to cities in search of non-existent jobs.

  • Gender equality is still an issue: women perform about half of the tasks on the cocoa farm, being mainly involved in early plant care and post-harvest activities fundamental to the final quality of cocoa beans, but men are the ones who mainly control the marketing and income. Moreover, they count on lower education levels, access to smaller and less fertile plots, time constraints due to competing household responsibilities, and limited access to financial services, inputs, equipment, and training.


  • To increase productivity, we will set up demonstration plots to facilitate the adoption of good agricultural practices, as they serve as learning centres where people are taught how to produce quality compost to reduce fertiliser use on their farms, hence reducing production costs and contributing to waste management. In addition, to minimise negative impacts on climate change in the area, 80,000 trees will be planted on 1,000 hectares in partnership with Puratos and state institutions. Economic and suitable shade trees for agroforestry will be identified and selected. At the same time, cocoa farmers will be trained on the importance of shade trees for climate adaptation, income diversification and the living environment, and women from the communities of Daregba and Colonel will learn how to maintain forest seedling nurseries as a business.

  • To improve bean quality, a drying and fermentation centre in line with Puratos’ specifications will be installed in each community. Women will be specifically trained in drying, fermentation, leadership and management, to manage the operations of the centres on behalf of ECSP, while cocoa producers will be trained in harvest and post-harvest processes to improve the quality and consistency of cocoa beans.

It's a complex story, because you don't want to create an oversupply of cocoa. That is why we are also working on income diversification in addition to cocoa production. For example, this project focuses on training women to ferment cocoa beans locally in the villages. This means that more income remains in the village and the position of the women is strengthened.
Johan Van den Bossche Project manager sustainable value chains
  • Income diversification will be tackled by exploring intercropping of cocoa with cassava and cowpea, facilitating access to planting material for both crops and providing specific training on Good Agricultural Practices. Moreover, dedicated demonstration plots on crop diversification and a farmer-to-farmer training video on intercropping will be developed, while women will be supported to process cassava and farmers will be linked to markets to facilitate access for their cassava and cowpea sales.
  • To address the challenge of access to finance, four Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) will be set up in the two communities. These are self-managed and self-capitalised micro-funds, among farmers in both communities, which will provide cocoa growers with easy access to finance. Members of VLSAs will also receive training on financial planning, investment opportunities within the communities for effective use of finances, and the use of mobile payment systems. Finally, VSLAs will be linked to formal financial institutions that are willing to provide cheaper financing to members of VSLAs.

  • To deal with the lack of a professional agricultural service sector and child labour, the project will develop the service sector by supporting young people to establish businesses that provide market-based farm management services to farmers, such as quality pruning and fertiliser services to cocoa growers. Together with the focus on income diversification it should allow cocoa producers to no longer rely on child labour.

  • As of June 2020, Colruyt Group starts with the annual purchase of 100 tons of cocoa from 102 cocoa producers.

In addition to the market price, Colruyt will pay a living income differential, a fair trade and quality premium, a chocolate bonus and an extra premium. Colruyt wants to provide a stable market access at a good price that ensures that the gap is closed with the so-called 'Living Income Reference' price. That is the price that enables a producer to earn a living income with a profitable company size and a sustainable level of productivity.

Karen Janssens Expert sustainable sourcing at Colruyt Group

Duration of the project: The project will last for three years, starting in June 2020.

L’Entreprise Coopérative de Saint Paul was created in 2010 and it is based in San Pedro. It intervenes in the trade, purchase and commercialisation of coffee and cocoa. The cooperative accounts for more than 4,000 members who produce an average of 15,000 tons of cocoa per year.

In the short term, we will be working in close contact with 102 cocoa producers, all members of ECSP, and their families, living in the two communities of Daregba and Colonel.

Besides developing and testing the different parameters of the living income model, the project will also make the business case for scaling up the living income model and farm service provision. Lessons learned will be shared through cocoa Public Private Partnership platforms in Ivory Coast, Beyond Chocolate and the Living Income Community of Practice. In this way, we expect to indirectly reach a much larger number of cocoa farmers. In addition, Colruyt aspires to have its full chocolate range produced under sustainable practices throughout the whole supply chain.

Rikolto is responsible for coordinating and implementing the project on site, in collaboration with the Ivorian cooperative ECSP and the Agro-Insight and Access Agriculture training centres. Rikolto will also guide farmers to gain easier access to credit.

Fairtrade Belgium will help implement and test the various elements of the “living income” concept. Until now, this has mainly been a theoretical concept, which must now be translated into the different realities of cocoa producers worldwide.

Ghent University will monitor and record the results of the project with a PhD.

Chocolate processor Puratos will focus on improving the quality of the cocoa and the training it requires.

Colruyt Group is the project lead and coordinates the cooperation in the chain, invests financially and is committed to purchasing from the producers in the long term and assuring them of a good price (living income reference price). This ensures a solid substructure.


  • 102 cocoa growing households from Daregba & Colonel communities have been trained in Good Agricultural Practices and have achieved a living income
  • The number of hectares of cocoa farms under agroforestry systems will be increased in the Daregba and Colonel communities. In addition, two drying and fermentation centres and seedling nurseries have been set up and are led by women.
  • The access to finance and to quality and affordable farm management services at the community level will improve, discouraging child labour and creating employment opportunities for young people within these communities.

Colruyt Group

Colruyt Group

Over more than 80 years ago, Colruyt saw its first light as a family business in Lembeek, Flemish Brabant. Today, the initial small company has grown into a family of companies: Colruyt Group. A flourishing player with numerous retail formulas and active in 4 countries.

Fairtrade Belgium

Fairtrade Belgium

As a member of Fairtrade International, Fairtrade Belgium plays a bridging role between the international objective and the Belgian market: creating a vibrant market for Fairtrade products in Belgium.

Ghent University

Ghent University

Ghent University (abbreviated as UGent) is a public research university located in Ghent, Belgium. It is one of the biggest Flemish universities, consisting of 44,000 students and 9,000 staff members, and consistently rates among the top 100 universities in the world.

Entreprise Coopérative de Saint Paul

Entreprise Coopérative de Saint Paul

Entreprise Coopérative de Saint Paul was created in 2010 and it is based in San Pedro. It intervenes in the trade, purchase and commercialisation of coffee and cocoa. The cooperative accounts for more than 4,000 members who produce an average of 15,000 tons of cocoa per year.



Founded in 1919, Puratos is an international group active in the food industry, supplying ingredients to bakers, pastry chefs and chocolatiers. The headquarters are located outside Brussels (Belgium) and its products and services are available in over 100 countries around the world.

Access Agriculture

Access Agriculture

Access Agriculture is a NGO that works to improve rural livelihoods and sustainable food systems in the global South. It promote agroecological principles and rural entrepreneurship through capacity development and South-South exchange of quality farmer-to-farmer training videos in local languages.

Agro Insight

Agro Insight

Agro-Insight is a dynamic enterprise that merges expertise from science, communications and graphic design to support sustainable agriculture and equitable trade. It work closely with clients to enhance the impact on rural communities, using effective video, and print material production. Agro-Insight also organises training in extension methods and organisation of advisory services, as well as evaluation of extension projects.

Abdulahi Aliyu
Abdulahi Aliyu
Cocoa and coffee programme director