Kavokiva cocoa farmers come together in Côte d'Ivoire
In the Gouro language of the Haut Sassandra region in southeast Côte d’Ivoire, Kavokiva means “we come together”. And that is exactly what more than 600 farmers did when they founded the Coopérative Agricole Kavokiva de Daloa in 1999.
Côte d’Ivoire is known for its high-quality cocoa and more than 40% of the country’s cocoa is produced in the region of Daloa, home of Kavokiva. Ravaged with political upheaval and financial crisis, Côte d’Ivoire is one of the world’s poorest countries. The region of Daloa is made up of rural villages where cocoa is the main source of cash income for most farmers, many of whom also grow robusta coffee. Fruit and vegetables are grown for home consumption and women sell bananas and other crops at the local market.
The region of Daloa has poorly maintained roads, many villages have no electricity, and drinking water only available from the village well. Access to healthcare is inadequate and the nearest clinic or hospital can be more than 10km away. The illiteracy rate among agricultural communities is as high as 95%, with many schools poorly equipped and too far away for children to attend each day.
Kavokiva’s mission is to improve the social and economic position of its members by supporting the production and marketing of their cocoa and coffee. This includes paying a higher price for members’ beans than local traders and providing credit for farm inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, school fees, and medical expenses.
Of the 800 or so cooperatives in the country’s cocoa and coffee sectors, Kavokiva has a reputation with the government and others as one of the strongest in terms of its administrative structure, the quantity and quality of its cocoa, and the support and services provided to members. Kavokiva presently has over 3400 members.
Alex Assanvo, FLO Global Product Manager for Cocoa says, “Kavokiva is one of the leading cooperative in Côte d’Ivoire and is a source of inspiration and motivation for many cooperatives that want to join Fairtrade.”
Kavokiva and Fairtrade
Kavokiva was Fairtrade certified for cocoa in 2004. Under the Fairtrade Standards, Kavokiva receives a Minimum Price of $1,600/tonne for its cocoa beans, or the market price if higher. After crashing to around $750/tonne in 2001 the market price has hit highs of over $3,500 in recent years because of concerns over supply. Producers also receive the additional Fairtrade Premium of $150/tonne reserved for community, business or environmental improvements.
Fulgence Nguessan, President of Kavokiva, said: “Life is tough here, people are suffering, so consumers need to pay the best possible price.”
“We have been busy for years growing good quality cocoa for chocolate. So if we are doing our best to give consumers the best quality cocoa, they should give the best possible price.”
His colleague , Mr George Kwame, General Secretary of Kavokiva added, “We have been busy for years growing good quality cocoa for chocolate. So if we are doing our best to give consumers the best quality cocoa, they should give the best possible price.”
Fairtrade Makes a Difference in Daloa
Kavokiva provides support for basic social needs in the community. Yet, even with large sales volumes, Kavokiva would be unable to finance all the necessary services. But Fairtrade is making a difference by providing an opportunity for Kavokiva to put some of the urgently needed services in place - building clinics and improving schools for the whole community, not just Kavokiva members.
The Fairtrade Premium has meant Kavokiva has been able to make key benefits available to members, including an annual bonus and investing in improvements to services such as education and health.
Clean water and healthcare are priorities – farmers can’t work on their farms if they are sick - and three new wells have been constructed, equipped with motor pumps.
One of the co-op’s biggest achievements has been investing the Premium in the construction of its own health centre at Gonaté, with a doctor, midwife, and two nurses available to offer a range of treatment for patients without the need to travel to a public hospital. They have also bought their own ambulance to transport patients from their villages if necessary. This is complimented by a free health insurance scheme with affordable medicines available to all members.
Fulgence Nguessan, President of Kavokiva, said: “The health centre and health insurance scheme are the most important benefits. Mortality rates have come down. Without the insurance, there would be little else for a farmer to do, for example if they had a hernia, but die.”
Mr Kouakou, a member of Kavokiva, added: “Without Fairtrade or the medical centre, I would not be here today. I had an accident and was sick and the medical centre helped me.”
Kavokiva distributes scholarships to members' children so that they can pay the fees to attend school. The Premium has also helped to build schools in some villages where the government school was too far away and where school fees are twice the cost of schools run by the co-operative. Part of the fee parents pay for each child goes towards teachers’ salaries.
With the Fairtrade Premium money the cooperative can provide some very basic classrooms and equipment such as blackboards. Education is considered so important that where other schooling isn’t accessible some members have built temporary classrooms out of bamboo and teach children themselves. Kavokiva has also purchased supplies for remote schools. A women’s literacy program has also been set up with Fairtrade Premium money.
A qualified agronomist has been hired to improve farming techniques and yields. Bicycles have been distributed to farmers so that they can get to and from their farms more easily.
Kavokiva had a Child Labour Charter in place for its members prior to receiving Fairtrade certification. The Charter clarifies the difference between children helping on the family farm in their spare time and exploitative, illegal practices. It includes guidelines for members on identifying child labour and what action they should take if they come across it. Twenty-one committees are in place across the regional sections to implement the Charter and educate members about it. In rural communities in Côte d’Ivoire, as in countries around the world, children help out on family farms. This activity is not considered as child labour in the Fairtrade system if and only if it does not affect children’s health and personal development, or interfere with their schooling. Fairtrade certified producers must meet standards which prohibit child labour and include procedures to identify and rectify non-compliance.
Poverty is a major cause of child labour - many farmers barely earn enough from their cocoa to pay for school fees and keep their children in school. This is compounded by school fees being payable in September when the school year starts, a particularly bad time for farmers who have very little cash until the harvest begins in October. To help overcome this, Kavokiva also offers every member a loan to cover the costs of schooling for their children and, as a result, almost all members' children attend school.
Watch a video about Kavokiva: www.youtube.com/watch
For more information on Kavokiva, visit their web-site at http://www.kavokiva.net