Meet ECOOKIM: The Enterprise Supporting a Coast Dependent on Cocoa
31 May 2023
Did you know that Ivory Coast produces almost half of the world's supply of cocoa, accounting for 15% of the nations entire GDP? On top of this, cocoa farming employs nearly 600,000 people in the country - supporting almost a quarter of its total population - data from the Conseil du Cafe-Cacao (Coffee-Cocoa Council) suggests. These staggering figures highlight the scale of dependency on cocoa across Ivory Coast, and that is why it is fundamentally important that we can continue to support the cocoa value chain in the country.
A Shared Need for our Customers
A key player in this cocoa value chain is ECOOKIM (Enterprise Coopérative Kimbre). Established in 2004, ECOOKIM are currently Shared Interest's largest customer in West Africa, and one of the best-performing Fairtrade certified groups in the region, with 30 co-operatives consisting of 32,253 individual producers growing cocoa on small family farms. ECOOKIM buys and processes raw cocoa from these co-operatives for export.
It's About More Than Just Cocoa
Whilst ECOOKIM holds a vision of ensuring cocoa farmers receive a greater share of the cocoa supply chain by selling directly in the international market, the scope of their influence and ambition extends well beyond solely cocoa production. To date, ECOOKIM has provided eclectic social support to its members, including the provision of hydraulic pumps and subsequent access to safe drinking water, the construction of several schools and warehouses, the distribution of educational, materials and treated mosquito nets as well as the delivery of training on Malaria and Ebola disease awareness and prevention, environmental protection and climate change mitigation. They are also avid campaigners against child labour.
"We have been using the Fairtrade Premium to set up primary schools so the children are looked after while the women go to work."
– Aminata Bamba, Leader of ECOOKIM's Sustainable Development Program (SDP)
In 2021, ECOOKIM provided additional training to its members in farm management practices, whilst in 2022, the enterprise launched the Livelihoods Ecosystem Advancement Program (LEAP), in partnership with Fairtrade Foundation and Mars, to address persistent barriers to cocoa farmers’ abilities to achieve a living income.
The Challenges Facing Chocolate
Despite the strides taken by benevolent organisations such as ECOOKIM, pressing challenges still face the cocoa industry and every effort must be taken to support producers in their efforts to mitigate, resolve and evolve beyond these concerns. Foremost, the war in Ukraine has lead to a shortage in fertiliser. Closer to home, strike action at Ivory Coast's two main ports has lead to further disruption and delay to exports. Meanwhile, globally, climate change is leading cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast to experience the effects of erratic rainfall and subsequent swollen shoot disease - a virus that typically kills trees within a few years and causes serious damage to crops. Constitutively, these factors have resulted in a 60,000-tonne global cocoa deficit in the 2022/23 season, according to a Reuters report on the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) forecast.
"Farmers may know best what needs to be done to improve their crops and their livelihoods but might not have the market support to make those changes."
– Aminata Bamba, Head of Sustainability at ECOOKIM and Leader of the SDP