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Awa Bamba will speak in the GLF Africa 2022 plenary “Achieving sustainable commodity value chains in Africa: Lessons and perspectives from cocoa” on 15 September 2022. Get your ticket here.
Chocolate rules in West Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire. The small tropical nation produces almost half of the world’s cocoa, and nearly 6 million of its inhabitants work in the sector. But the luxury commodity doesn’t tend to offer a life of luxury for those who grow it: the average Ivorian cocoa farmer earns under half of the sum required for a living income.
Awa Bamba is working to change that. She’s served since 2017 as Director General of Coopérative Agricole de Yakassé Attobrou (CAYAT), a cocoa and coffee farming cooperative with more than 3,000 members. Established in 2010, the co-op works to facilitate the collection and sale of cocoa and coffee and contribute to the welfare of its members.
We spoke to her ahead of her appearance at the GLF Africa 2022 digital conference to find out more.
How and why was CAYAT created? How did you get involved?
Before the creation of CAYAT, our local producers sold off their cocoa at low prices, and often were cheated by crooked buyers to such an extent that they were unable to meet their most basic needs. Given the poverty that prevailed in the various communities, these producers – headed by Traore Sinan – created CAYAT to sell their products at a rewarding price and ensure their families’ wellbeing.
What specific challenges do cocoa farmers face in your region?
In our region, we are facing problems related to climate change as well as declining productivity and price.
How is CAYAT working to address some of these challenges?
CAYAT is carrying out various actions. At the environmental level, we are working on extension, conservation and restoration of ecosystems through [activities including] a nursery of shade trees that is managed by women, a local radio station to sensitize members and different communities on the protection of forests; and the organization of planting days in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Forests. In terms of productivity, we encourage our producers to adopt good agricultural practices, and we offer them inputs to improve their production. At the price level, we encourage producers to diversify their sources of income through agroforestry and to move toward organic cocoa production to get better prices, because once they are certified as organic, we can pay them a premium.
Do women cocoa farmers face particular challenges? If so, what is CAYAT doing to address these?
Yes. To address these, we have put in place a gender program, which consists firstly of training women on agricultural entrepreneurship, functional literacy and simplified accounting, and then in the establishment of other income-generating activities (such as poultry farming and food production). We also carry out negotiations with village authorities to facilitate access to land for women.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in the management of CAYAT?
Yes, especially at the level of governance.
What are your aspirations for the cooperative in the future?
As a woman in management, in the future I would like to see many more women occupying positions of responsibility at the level of the board of directors of CAYAT. I also think my cooperative should move to transforming its beans into semi-finished products, to increase the incomes of its members.
What kinds of changes would you like to see for the Ivorian cocoa sector as a whole?
I would like us to do the semi-finished processing of cocoa in-country and to have direct partnerships between chocolate-makers and cooperatives.