Tag Archives: sustainability
New efforts by the chocolate industry are aimed at giving cacao beans the cachet of wine grapes.
To adequately cocer the breadth and variety of vosions on sustainability in the Netherlands, it is necessary to expand the scope of this study to some remarkable, smaller-scale initiatives. These initiatives are remarkable because they move beyond securing supply and help to push the sustainability debate further. They take place in different segments of the chain and are not primarly driven by risks or regulation; instead they are the result of search for alternatives and smart ways of achieving sustainability in the cocoa chain. This section will also discuss how local circumstances can either stimulate or hinder these initiatives. It will not cover all of important sustainability cocoa initiatives in the Netherlands, but it will provide a good overview of key projects. A disinction will be made between the different initiatives of SMEs, conventional players, and other actors actively involved in the production of organic cocoa.
In this section just one important show a determined commitment and drive to manufacture the best product, and bear the responsibility of achieving sustainability in the cocoa chain.
The restoring economy of Original Beans.
Original Beans was founded on the idea of building a restoring economy on the basis of consumption. Because we define sustainability as leaving a situation as you have found it, it is not sufficient to produce as responsibly as possible because there is Always damage inficted. Therefore, we must restore the damage we do in the entire chain. (R.Nickels, OB 2010)
Original Beans is a small chocolate company, founded in 2008 on the idea that ‘what we consume we must replenish’. Although this seems like a simple idea, implementing it is a big challenge. Original Beans begins by using a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) to identify the footprint of the entire chain from production until the package is discarded in the rubbish bin. This macroanalysis is used to analyse the environmental damage in terms of energy, water, and waste.
By employing the LCA method, Original Beans learned that the main environmental damage in the cocoa chain take place in three different phases: production, processing, and packaging. Cocoa production in origin countries goes hand-in-hand with land conversion: the resulting deforestation is a major contributor to CO2 emissions.Other pollutants are the pesticides and artificial fertilizer used during the production phase. As a carbon intensive process, also cocoa processing entails environmental costs. The packaging material used for wrapping chocolate is made from fossil fuels and is not biodegradable; the glue and inkt contain the toxic substances toluene and cadmium respectively. Currently, Original Beans is now using fully biodegradable foil for its chocolate bars (2012).
The LCA does provide insight in environmental issues but it does not directly address economic concerns. For viable economic options fundamental choises have be made on where you get cocoa from. Original Beans’ policy is to exclusively source from forest systems, while respecting the diversity of trees and making sure that cocoa production in the forest does not adversely affect the carrying capacity of the forest. This is achieved primarly by replanting trees without using pesticides or artificial fertilizers. For every bar of chocolate sold, local community farmers plant a tree that will support the forest – not just the rare cacao trees, but various species of trees that are neccesary for maintaining a healty biodiversity. Eventually the farmer is paid a fair price both for producing cocoa and for his work in these environmental services. New cocoa trees generate immediate revenu for the farmers, and the some of the other trees (e.g., teak) are an investment that will yield income in the future.
In the production phase, Original Beans works directly with cocoa farmers and is actively involved in organising them. Currently, Original Beans is exploring the possibility of sourcing Ecuadorian cocoa, produced by indigenous people living in the rain forest, which requires establishing a knowledge infrastructure. In this example, Original Beans works together with the Progreso fund and program, a leading network for hands-on business development assistance to smallholder farmers. In Congo, Original Beans buys EKO certfied cocoa from a local cocoa trader that works together with the Dutch Louis Bolk Institute (Agro Eco). Around 10.000 farmers are involved in this business. In Congo, Original Beans is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), a federally owned organisation in Germany and the Dutch Foundation DOEN. The goal is to stimulate larger companies to source high quality cocoa from Congo.
In tackling the technical issues involved in processing and packaging, Original Beans works together with different partners, both Dutch and international. These partners are mainly companies that supply packaging or are involved in the processing of cocoa used by Original Beans. Thse are traditional companies that need to be additionally stimulated to change their customary business practices. As a client, Original Beans provides this incentive. According to Philipp Kaufmann, Their suppliers of packaging and cocoa products have become convinced about the potential of improving their business through more environmentally friendly practices, and are exploring the use of alternative sources of energy, for example, using energy from windmills or water turbines by a processor.
We should look at the result farmers get per effort instead of result per hectare.
next time: problems with knowledge application
With plant material it is crucial to determine per situation what the best plant variety is and to make sure that it is locally available. The problem is that there is a huge gap between science and practice: scientists are focused on publishing fundamental research and farmers use whatever is available locally. The crux is to apply scientific knowledge locally.
Cocoa production can be increased threefold by using sustainable agricultural techniques, new plant material, and fertilizer. The availability of knowledge on these techniques and the appropriate inputs is generally not perceived as a problem (but requires ongoing investments). A lot is already known and investments are being made in technical research on combating pests and diseases, new plant material, and other topics. This research is mainly conducted outside the Netherlands, by privat R&D departements, specialized cocoa research centres, and universities. Often they work together in the developments of this – more technical- scientific knowledge. The key challenge is how to bridge the gap between this type of knowledge and the materials and knowledge that farmers use on the ground. There is a serious need to make science applicable in local circumstances, and thus to make it more useful for farmers.
Training is essential for reaching out to farmers. The central rationale, shared by the different actors involved in mainstreaming sustainable cocoa, is that farmer training increases farmer productivity levels and quality of the produce, ultimately increasing farmer income. It is expected that this additional income will be invested in the well-being of their family members, their cocoa farms, and their communities. This should be lead to the desirable future outcome of cocoa farming becoming an honourable profession, which strongly appeals to the young. Clearly training is an important element, but providing training to millions of farmers and workers is not an easy task. Several key challenges in training smallholders are presented in the next lines: First of all, many farmers lack primary school education so a training program should be practical and connect farmers’ experience and capacities. Second, the infrastructure to train farmers is either lacking or underdeveloped in many cocoa producing countries. Third, local extension services are in many places underdeveloped, which is linked to the limited investment in the cocoa sector and infrastructures from the side of the goverment in many cocoa producing countries.
In responce to these difficulties, the cocoa industry and their governmental and civil society partners have decided to organise – in both consumer and producer countries – the farmer training by themselves. The participatory training model that these partners use is the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach. In these schools farmers include pruning, control of pests and diseases, harvesting, fermenting, drying and storing cocoa beans. The Sustainable Tree Crop Program (STCP) – and international public-privat partnership between industry, producers, reasearchers, goverment agencies, public sector institutions and conservations groups – has been a major player in setting-up these schools in West-Africa. The intergovernmental organisation CABI, which opened an office in the Netherlands, has played an important role in developing the curriculum of these Farmer Field School for the STCP.
Farmer Field Schools are intensive and expensive courses that quickly educate untrained farmers to improve and expand their production as soon as possible. This is an emergency measure and not viable in the long term. Therefore, more sustainable ways of training farmers have to be set up, together with goverments and research institutes. This could be done by linking up with existing structures such as extension services, but alternative ways also have to be explored.
Its all about changing the farmrs’ behaviour. Therefore you need training, just as you need inputs, financing, and market opportunities. Effective training, to get people to understand what they should do, has to be done at lowest possible costs in order to be able to reach the mainstream. There are different models with which they are experimenthing; Farmer Field School is one of them. FFS is an expensive but effective manner to train some farmers, but the knowledge that some acquire does not sufficiently trickle down to other. How do you get adults to learn, that’s the challenge.
Alternative and additional forms of training are necessary, not only because it is necessary to develop cheaper alternatives but also because of the necessit to increase knowledge dissemination among farmers. Although farmers that receive the FFS training have to commit themselves to train three colleagues, in practice this knowledge dissemination is limited. There are a variety of potential explanations: the farmers have limited capacities as trainers; they do not share knowledge on purpose to retain an advantage over their neighbours; their neighbours could be physically located at a prohibitive distance; and other barriers.
To overcome this problem partners in the certification scheme are investing in an additional training model called Training of Trainers (ToT). Farmers that show enthusiasm and progress in acquiring new skills are offered the opportunity to become trainers themselves. They have to follow and additional course and if they pass they receive a certificate that allows them to train other farmers.
In order for farmers to receive training they need to be organised. Moreover, farmer organisations are the primary entities that receive certifications. Farmer organisations are able to distribute goods (plant material, fertilizer) and services (training, credit) among their members and act as farmers representatives. Thus organisations have the potential to provide not only economic benefits but also empower farmers. Organisation farmers offers advantages also to industry, by providing support for the certification and auditing process, and by providing a distribution mechanism for inputs, training and finance.
There are many different types of farmer organisations. There are small groups of farmers that organise on an informal basis to collectively transport cocoa beans. On the other hand, there are huge national associations, which even have the power to influence national policies. One of the most recognised form of farmer organisation is the cooperative. In many developing counie coopeive wee ceed by govements and consequence wee politicised. Because of past negative experiences, many farmers are suspicious of the cooperative movement and choose not to organise in a formal way.
This lack of trust and the additional incentives that are required make it very difficult to organise a group of farmers in practise. This effort is further complicated by the fact that organisations that are founded by external actors tend to set overly ambitions goals or scale up to rapidly. Sometimes the new organisation even conflicts with the existing structures already in place. Also, farmers do not necessarily see the benefits of becoming organised or have no trust. To successfully organise farmers requires providing them with clear incentives. There are also organisations that secure a cooperative status for financial reasons; they primarily use their front as a legal entity and thus do not represent farmer interests.
It is apparent that organising an increasing numbers of farmers is a serious challenge. The strategy of actors involved in UTZ Certified was to start with improving and expanding existing cooperatives. In the Ivory Coast, where UTZ started a piloting the certification scheme, it is expected that around 20% of the farmers can be easily included in existing organisations. These farmers live close to big towns and enjoy the benefits of good infrastructure. Improving the quality of existing farmer organisations – in order to shape them into a trustworthy business partner- is challenging because they have low management and
negotiation capacity and have little capital to invest in improving their capacities. To set up new cooperatives or other types of farmer organisation is extremely difficult and it is a serious challenge to reach and organise the overall majority of farmers.
next time: Other themes and some reflections.
Certification is a way to improve the farmers state of affairs, by providing them with additional (or at least stable) income and other privileges, conditional on their compliance with certain requirements. Such requirements are outlined in documents called standards or codes of conduct, which are used by auditing committees to randomly check farms. The certified product, which eventually finds its way to the shelves of supermarkets, informs the consumers with information, certificates also provide marketing opportunities for companies involved in branding of cocoa products.
At the moment there are four labels for sustainable cocoa and chocolate (not mentioning DIRECT CACAO here*) These are EKO, for organic cocoa; Max Havelaar, for Fairtrade cocoa; Rainforest Alliance, for nature conservation; and UTZ Certified, for farmers support. Each of these certifiers focuses on different aspects of sustainability and its own unique standards and approaches to rewarding farmers.
Dutch cocoa processors and cocoa chocolate manufacturers utilize these different schemes. Currently the focus is very much on UTZ Certified, which launched its Cocoa Program in 2007, with a focus on certification, training and farmer organisation. Through UTZ Certified, mulitnational corporations aim to realize their sustainable sourcing objectives. Many complicated elements surround certification. One burning issue, repeatedly mentioned in interviews and at multi-stakeholder meetings, is harmonisation of standards.
Harmonisation of standards Each label has its own specific attention points, its own standards, its own system of rewards, its own traceability systems, and so on. The fact that there are several certificates, which all opetare differently, can cause confusion in the actual meaning behind a specific, label and the differences between the various labels. Moreover, it is unclear whether these labels can actually realise the claims they make. It is nessary to have such variety of labels for certifying more or less the same product and process?
The push to combine the efforts of EKO, Max Havelaar, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ in issuing certificates to farmer organisations originates from different actors: the Tropical Commodity Coalation, the Dutch Initiative for Sustainable Trade, and from industry players, such as Cargill. The certifiers gave indicated that they are interested to collaborate in the pre-competitive stage of certification (the producer side), where there are lot of similarities (e.g., how auditing takes place, or yheir involvement in capacity development for farmers). By joining forces the certifiers can, at the same time, invrease the efficiency of the certification process and improve their credibility. Joining forces in the marketing of the produce is more complicated, as certifiers sill seek to protect their commercial interests. Within this context, the fair trade organisation Max Havelaar shared this concern regarding competition among certification schemes:
Because every certifier wants to safeguard its own supply, there is a danger that ther will be a new competition between the certifiers about who will actually get the certified cocoa.
This quote illustrates the prevalent fear that UTZ CERTIFEID will eventually attract the farmers and their produce, because they enjoy the support of industry. This is not an unrealistic fear as the supply of certified cocoa is lagging far behind demend. Another issue of concern is whether farmers will be able to select the certification scheme for which they want to produce their cocoa.
Questions regarding harmonisation It is sad that the different labels for sustainable cocoa have an 80% overlap in their social and environmental criteria. Several questions often arise in discussions on the harmonisation of standards, for example: How can the different certification schemes be integrated? How can the four certifiers operate collectively, in order to certify as many farmers as possible? What are barriers or disadvantages involved in harmonisation? Does harmonisation of standards lead to weak compromises? Are there no alternative form of certification available that could make the process faster and cheaper? Should they be actively sought out?
…In order to cope with some of the challenges that the use of certification schemes generate, the different actors involved in the cocoa sector also build upon experiences with certification in other sectors. UTZ CERTIFIED builds upon its experience in coffee, where it is among the biggest certification programs in the world. Other learned from the research conducted on sustainable biomass. For example, Fair Food has used a document prepared by Cramer (2007) for testing a framework on sustainable biomass to explore alternative (cheaper) ways of certifying cocoa. In this document three different certification systems were compared: the track and trace system, the mass balance system, and negotiable certificates. Currently, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations are considering the mass balance system as an alternative way of certifying Fairtrade products. This system prescribes to stop the practice of segregated processing of Fairtrade cocoa and conventional cocoa. UTZ CERTIFIED allows both mass and segregation for certified cocoa.
Limits of certification Because certification is not sufficient for guaranteeing sufficient supply, it is combined with investments in farmer training, this called certification+
The concept of Certification+, introduced by Solidaridad and Mars, states that the premium provided by Certification is not meant to guarantee a living wage for farmers. By improving productivity and quality, farmers should be able to earn more for their cocoa and invest in improving their liveihood, especially in West Africa wher cocoa production is concentrated. Therefore, these parties claim to go beyond certification by improving productivity through providing better plant material and fertilizer, training, and financing. In addition, Solidaridad is improving support to farmers in producing countries by lobbying and by working to strengthen civil society.
NEXT TIME: Farmer training
The risk that cocoa suppliers will not be able to meet the required demand is a serious threat to the cocoa sector. The trees that produce cocoa beans are generally old, are rooted in over-farmed soil, and are tended by poor farmers with little if any formal educaton. The majority of farmers are smallholders, which means that they grow cocoa as a cash crop on a small plot of land, along with food crops and occasionally also with other cash crops. From the income generated by these cash crops they pay their hospital bills, debts, their children’s school expenses. Farmers rarely have any remaining financial means to utilise for on-farm investments. Crop losses are a huge problem, as a large portion of the harvest is usually lost to pest and diseases. Money to invest in new plant material, fertilizer or pesticides is lacking; the know-how to apply it is scarce. Farmers often work by themselves and receive little support in terms of training, advice, or access to credit. In this context, exasperated by poor infrastructure and their marginal position farmers sometimes keep their children from school and allow them to help or work on the farm.
Because of these appalling conditions, the continuity of cocoa production is under threat. First, there is an exodus from the countryside as youngsters see no future there and seek other possibilities by migrating to the city. Additionally, crops like rubber, cassava, and oil palms have become more profitable for farmers. Cocoa production in West Africa shows a decreasing trend of 2% per year, while, at the same time, demand for cocoa products, including high quality chocolate, is expected to increase in the near future. The cocoa industry is concerned about these developments and faces a majpr challenge: how to assure that supply continues to meet demand.
In order to assure that farmers remain in the cocoa business and increase the quantity and quality of their production, industry partners are investing heavily in farmers. Multinational companies have their own initiatives, they are also increasingly collaborating to jointly tackle the problem of supply failure. Not only cocoa companies, but also goverments, financial institutions, NGOs, labour unions and certifiers have been joining forces to provide support to farmers. A example of such efforts is the international Cocoa Livelihoods Program. Thhis program focuses on enhancing farmer knowledge, improving farmer marketing skills on agriculturally diversified farms. The Dutch have positioned themselves as leaders in the proces of mainstreaming sustainable cocoa. It is estimated that Dutch companies will invest around $325 million in sustainable cocoa during the course of the next several years (accessed15 July 2010). In the Netherlands a number of industry players have united forces, together with goverment and members of civel society, realise the goal of sustainable cocoa and, addressing the risk of supplier failure, to improve yields and profitability for farmers. One of the results is the UTZ CERTIFIED Cocoa Program, established by several multinational companies.
With this initiative they want to at least double the current yields of approximately 400 kg / ha by training farmers in modern farming techniques, using new plant material and increased use of fertilizer. They also want to increase dialogue with authorities to improve enabling factors. The program focuses on the largest producer countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ecuador. By focusing on capacity building in the source locations and providing farmer training, the program aims to improve the farmers’ productivity and the quality of their produce; which ultimately should be rewarded by the market, under the maxim: ‘Better price for better products’.
This book explores the knowledge needed for achieving a sustainable cocoa chain and the gatekeepers of thise knowledge. It tells the story mainly from a Dutch perspective, focusing on the knowledge needs of actors involved in cocoa in the Netherlands, and their knowledge partners.
…Fifteen years from now (…) cocoa beans will be transported in the most sustainable way: in mega-bulk ships sailing towards Amsterdam! The port of Amsterdam has introduced a reduced sea harbor tariff for certified beans, to further promote their production and use. Storage and trans-shipment of beans is being done in the most fficient way, as bulk cranes with energy efficient motors and innovative flywheels offload beans. The vermin in the warehouses is eradicated without using environmentally harmful substances. The space in the harbour is also being used as efficiently as possible; as many tonnes as possible have to be used per square meter for trans-shipment and storage. Transport from the warehouses to the processors mainly takes place on barges because of their low CO2 emission and contribution to reducing traffic jams (…)
This story illustrate the vision of James Hallworth, Commercial Manager Bulk Logistics at the Port of Amsterdam, who describing how the cocoa transport storage and trans-shipment in the Netherlands might look fifteen years from now. The Port of Amsterdam is the world’s largest cocoa harbour and the Region of Amsterdam (Zaanstreek) is home to the most complete cocoa network in the world.
This commitment raises a set of questions, regarding the kind of knowledge needed for achieving a sustainable cocoa chain and the gatekeepers of this knowledge. A sustainable cocoa chain involves a process of continuous improvement. How can one ensure that the right knowledge is being developed at the right moment and, in particular, that the available knowledge will be effectively used by the people who need it the most? One must take into consideration the different perspectives on sustainability of the cocoa chain, as well as the different interests covered by the ‘knowledge agenda’, i.e. whose interests are included and whose are left out?
The general aim of this publication on sustainable cocoa in the Netherlands is to examine the question of knowledge and the availability of expertise in the country, and to further compare Dutch cocoa knowledge with the knowledge in the broader international spere. This comparison will serve to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Dutch cocoa knowledge infrastructure and to provide recommendations for improving its international position.
The publication: This book is part of a wider effort that seeks to achieve sustainable cocoa consuption in the Netherlands within fifteen years (Cocoa that will fall under sustainable cocoa includes for ex. certified organic cocoa, Fair Trade cocoa, Rainforest alliance, and cocoa certified by UTZ CERTIFIED) and to contibute to the global sustainable cocoa economy (people, planet profit). It examens the status of the Dutch knowledge sector and how it can strengthen its knowledge base.The publication aims to present all themes and questions in a way that will do justice to the complexity of the topic, without engaging in in-depth scientific analysis of the subject matter.
Structure of the publication: Chapter 2- Knowledge on sustainable value chains. Chapter 3- The position of the Dutch cocoa sector in the international cocoa chain. Chapter 4- The issues at stake. Chapter 5- Knowledge demand versus supply. Chapter 6- What do the Dutch know? Chapter 7- Recommendations for a sustainable knowledge base.
“sustainable chocolate” is quite a different thing, and Philipp Kauffmann will explain you how YOU can make the world better through (eating) chocolate 😀