In 2018, the Food Lab (in our role with the Living Income Community of Practice) supported the Ghana cocoa sector to establish a sector wide living income benchmark and publicize the accompanying KIT income gap analysis. Following this work, the Food Lab has worked closely with Steering Committee member, Kuapa Kokoo Ltd, to develop an initiative for development of living income strategies at the farmer group level. With funding from the Open Society Foundations, the Food Lab is working with Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union (KKFU), Kuapa Kokoo Ltd and Guittard Chocolate Company to identify pathways to income improvement through the combined mechanisms of improved cocoa quality and yield, Fairtrade purchasing and income diversification. This project is known by farmers and union staff as “Asetina Yiedie Akonhoma”, which means ‘living income’ in the Ashanti local language, Twi.
The collaboration focuses on one of KKFU’s societies of 1,120 farmers and since the pilot kick-off, the project has completed a household baseline survey and developed an investment plan for increased farmer income through three women’s led diversification opportunities: the production of yam, rice and micro-enterprises. The latter, women’s led micro-enterprises, are led by KKFU’s gender program. Conducting focus groups, the KKFU Gender Program prioritized women-led businesses that needed strengthening or start-up funds, and are aligned with the Gender Program which seeks to promote social, economic and political empowerment of women members. In Phase I, five women’s led businesses are receiving seed capital and training to test business viability.
In addition to diversification projects, the society leaders are developing a plan with their members on priorities for investment in cocoa productivity (beginning in 2020 following the peak harvest). This plan will address farmers’ priorities to increase their cocoa yields including better access to inputs, training and addressing soil health. The Guittard team is also analyzing bean quality and partnering with members to focus on cocoa flavor and quality attributes driven by farming practices.
To better understand the gap between the actual income of Kuapa Kokoo farmers and a living income, project partners are using a simple farm economic model. Sustainable Food Lab staff is working with Kuapa Kokoo to model potential income gains from a combination of secondary-income streams, diversified crops and focused investments in cocoa quality and production. Strategizing potential income in 2 and 5 years, project partners are hopeful that a multi-pronged approach to Living Income will provide lasting results for farmer livelihoods.
Throughout the next year partners will provide women farmers and community members support through agronomic assistance and business coaching. With the women’s group businesses starting operations now, preliminary results will be available in Q1 2020, while yam, rice and cocoa production results will occur throughout 2020. This effort is intended to produce insights on a farmer-led strategy on living income and lessons on effective income diversification as one component to a pathway to living income. All findings from this project will be shared through the Living Income Community of Practice.