The Income Accelerator Project, the current phase of which was launched in January 2022, aims to incentivise Ivorian cocoa farmers to learn more productive farming methods such as pruning, enrol their children in school and reduce child labour risks.
The current phase of the programme currently covers 10,000 cocoa-farming families across Côte d'Ivoire. Collectively, they have received €2 million in incentives since the current phase began.
Most of the data in the report is from the pilot phase, which covered 1000 families, and took place between 2020 and 2022.
The programme provides farmers with €100 incentives to complete four key activities: enrolling their children in school, improving good agricultural practices, taking part in agroforestry schemes, and diversifying their income to additional sourcing, such as rearing livestock and running a business. They get a further €100 for completing all the tasks, meaning they can earn a potential €500. After the first two years, the incentives will be reduced to €250.
Families receive payments through a secure ‘mobile money’ transfer, which is split equally between the male and female heads of each household to encourage gender equality.
Reducing child labour and increasing education
One of the key causes of child labour in cocoa farming is the low income of the farming families. At the start of the scheme the average income for a cocoa farming family in Côte d'Ivoire was 3000 Swiss Francs, around half of the living income benchmark, roughly 6500 Swiss Francs. A Living Income Benchmark is the money needed for a decent standard of living.
The income accelerator aims at increasing farmer income in order to “funnel that towards increasing the total household income with the aim to reduce the risk of child labour,” Nestlé cocoa manager Darrell High told FoodNavigator.
The income accelerator incentivises parents to enrol their children in school. When asked, nearly all farming families expressed a desire to send their children to school. In the pilot scheme, 98% of children aged 6 to 16 were enrolled in school, increasing the enrolment rate by 8%. Specifically, the money helps with travelling to schools, especially to secondary schools for the older children.
“The money will help because often the secondary school is not in the village where they live,” High told us, “secondary schools are in towns, so kids have to commute, or they’re staying in the town during the week. And there is a cost to that, so money will help getting through that.”
While there were some problems reaching families due to their remoteness, all in all 2837 children were registered by the end of the pilot phase.
Learning to prune
Another activity with a €100 incentive is taking part in good agricultural practices. Pruning, for example, enhances productivity. Nestlé trained and equipped farmers for pruning their cocoa trees.
“We're focusing on pruning, as a key activity that hasn't been done well enough in the past but can really unlock the productivity of the cocoa tree,” High told us. “We're helping set up training equipment and subsidising pruning groups to do pruning on the farm to the high standard.”
Nestlé set each household the task of pruning one hectare each, which 43% of households in the pilot phase not only did successfully but exceeded. Pruning increased the farmers’ productivity by nearly 20%.
One of the key benefits of pruning, High told us, is that it prevents the tree expending too much energy on branches and leaves rather than fruit. “If you don't do it for a couple of years, the tree gets quite big. So instead of being a reasonable five-to-six-metre tree, it gets up to ten metres high.
“For such a bushy and big tree any pruning is a big job and is quite scary to do, and basically doesn't get done. And so what you get is a very large tree with a lot of vegetative growth that's really too high to maintain properly.”
Another incentive was taking part in agroforestry. To improve farm resilience, in the pilot phase Nestlé provided each farm with 20 seedlings of shade trees (20,000 overall). 92% of families planted all of their shade trees.
Shade trees are important because they help the cocoa to grow, building resilience and creating a thriving ecosystem.
Finally, Nestlé provided farmers with incentives to diversify their income and focus on activities such as raising livestock or growing other crops rather than simply being reliant on cocoa.
It also encouraged people, particularly women, to join Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), and attend activities such as Gender Action Learning at Scale (GALS) and Income Generating Activities (IGAs) trainings.
In the pilot phase, 24 VSLAs were set up, covering 55 communities, and 86% of families had at least one person in a VSLA, the majority of which were women.
The link between VSLA’s and diversified income is that one incentivises the other: VSLA members had on average 0.4 times more income sources than those who were not members, with running a business and selling livestock being two of the most prominent. VSLAs incentivise new sources of income by providing loans for income generating activities.
Nestlé provided 36 Income Generating Activities (IGA) trainings in order to provide farmers with the skills to set up additional income sources, in which 47% of cocoa families participated. However, learning skills for IGAs proved very time-consuming, and 84% of the women attending trainings said that they lacked the financial capabilities to put what they had learnt into practice.
One of the key aspects of income diversification is the promotion of gender equality – encouraging women to take a greater role in running the household money. “Women’s empowerment directly correlates to the diversification of incomes,” Cocoa Plan Manager Nathan Bello, who is based in Côte d’Ivoire, told FoodNavigator.
“The program places a big emphasis on involving women in making decisions about household budgets, which is why cash incentives are split equally between women and men. The program also provides couples’ training to encourage gender equality, and nearly half of all households in the pilot participated in such a training.”
“Often what they see with this exercise,” High added, “is that the women are doing a lot of work in the household but aren’t getting much of the reward. Now we help them to think through how that can change, and how they can do that differently in the future.”
After the completion of the current phase of the program, the test at scale phase, in 2024, Nestlé aims to expand to Ghana, with the eventual goal of reaching 160,000 farming families across its global cocoa supply chain by 2030.