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CAYAT: Cocoa, coffee and cashew producer based in Ivory Coast

CAYAT is a cocoa, coffee and cashew nut producing co-operative, based around the towns of Adzopé and Yakassé-Attobrou in the South East of Ivory Coast. 

Like many areas across Ivory Coast, the La Mé region where CAYAT is located is home to many cocoa farmers. The national cocoa body (Conseil Café-Cacao, or CCC) estimate around a quarter of the population of the region are cocoa producers, making cocoa one of the main sources of income, particularly in rural areas.  

CAYAT was established in 2010, with 283 members. Its aim was to unite cocoa farmers and to tackle the deep socio-economic challenges in the region, whilst farming sustainably and boosting farmer incomes.

Image: K. Kouamé Dominique and Soumia Affouo, Husband and Wife Members of the Agricultural Co-operative of Yakassé Attobrou (CAYAT).

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As Shared Interest continues to finance businesses that follow Fair Trade Principles, we echo this supportive approach to women’s empowerment. As set out in our Strategic Review booklet, included with your summer issue of Quarterly Return, we believe that gender equality has a significant part to play in strengthening communities and promoting economic growth. Across the regions in which we work, there are many examples of women leading the way in traditionally male-dominated sectors, and increasing evidence of their involvement in management and governance roles. 

Awa Traoré, General Manager at CAYAT (Coopérative Agricole de Yakasse Attobrou), told us:

“We have demonstrated the important role women play in society. We have demonstrated that women must take a leading position in order to change things in our society.”

CAYAT was formed in 2010 with 283 members. They became Fairtrade certified in 2012, and have grown to over 3,000 members located across 38 villages in Ivory Coast; 400 of these members are women. Awa told us that, before the co-operative was founded, farmers sold their cocoa at low prices to middlemen and were often unable to meet their most basic needs.

They came together to create CAYAT with the aim of selling their production at a better price and to provide for their families. The co-operative created a Women’s Society in 2015 to support female farmers to play a greater role in business and community development. Today, CAYAT refers to this as the Women’s Union and it has 500 participants, including wives of male farmers, carrying out various income-generating activities, such as growing cassava and maize. Their dream is to have a production unit to mechanise this process, which is currently carried out manually.

Shared Interest first provided finance to the co-operative in 2016, enabling them to increase production and meet the
growing demand for cocoa. The following year, they established a rural radio station with funds from the Fairtrade Premium. Now known as Radio CAYAT, its aim is to be the ‘voice of the producer’, focusing on topics such as health, environment, agribusiness, and various other community themes. Awa told us that the radio station dedicates programmes to female leaders and role models within the community, focusing on themes such as gender equality. Awa said:

“For us, it is important to create the Union to restore social justice first, and then women can play a role in community development, it is important for women to have autonomy so that they can work alongside their husbands and provide for the needs of their family.”

CAYAT members have also attended the Women’s School of Leadership, developed by Fairtrade Africa in 2017, which supports producer organisations to understand and integrate women more fully into all aspects of agricultural development. It offers a year-long training and mentoring programme focused on financial management and income diversification, as well as human rights and gender equality.

Shared Interest Managing Director Patricia Alexander said: 

"I spoke to Awa at a Fairtrade Foundation meeting and she told me that the women who attended the School of Leadership did not previously realise that they were entitled to equal opportunities. This emphasised the importance of the training and the powerful impact it has.” 

Watch our Interview with CAYAT General Manager Awa Traoré here:

Awa Traore, General Manager of CAYAT, said:

“The relationship with Shared Interest is of a great support to CAYAT’s financial autonomy. We are happy to work with Shared Interest and intend to sustain our partnership.”


CAYAT hold various certifications for both their coffee and cocoa. In 2012 they gained Fairtrade certification for their cocoa. Following that in 2015 CAYAT achieved certification for their coffee with 4C Association. 4C is an independent, stakeholder-driven, internationally recognised sustainability standard for the coffee sector, working towards sustainable coffee supply chains and improved livelihoods of farmers. The 4C vision is aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs). Through various channels, 4C contributes to all SDGs.

We spoke to General Manager and Sustainability Officer Awa Traoré further about the impact of these certifications on the co-operative and its members. She told us: 

“Thanks to the certifications, we were allowed to put in place many social development projects in our communities."

"For example, we created schools in far away areas where children used to have to go to other villages to go to school. We refurbished a hospital and a maternity facility in one of our communities. The hospital used to be in disrepair and women had to give birth in terrible conditions. And now we’re able to protect mothers and newborns.

"We also refurbished a college for secondary school students in which over 1,000 students study. We have also been able to diversify our income and one of our main achievements was that we were able to empower women. We have been able to use the premiums derived from these certifications to allow women to become part of the trade and increase their income. Over 100 women have benefited from these programs and their profit after selling cocoa at approximately 50,000 CFA francs per month for the women in this program.

"We have used certain premiums to create agroforestry projects, and created a nursery with over 55,000 plants. So, as you can see, many projects were put in place thanks to the premiums deriving from certifications. It has also meant that producers, who receive a share of these premiums, can better maintain their fields and employ qualified labour to help in the maintenance of their fields, on top of increasing their productivity.”

Aboudramane Traore, Sustainability and Export Manager at CAYAT, said: 

"Fairtrade is truly the Rolls Royce of certifications because it has allowed the co-operative to develop and increase the quality of life of its members.” 

“We were previously only a local organisation, and in 2017 we gained certification by the Coffee and Cocoa Council, the regulatory organisation in that field. We received an export certification and that is when we began entering the international market. The Fairtrade certification basically meant that we got financing from Shared Interest. It also meant that the quality of life of our producers was improved because of the social projects, and it has also enabled CAYAT as a whole to become more professional."

Watch our interview with Aboudramane, along with other members of the CAYAT co-operative, as part of our 'Meet Our Customers' below:

Products from the Producer

Interested in supporting CAYAT by directly purchasing their product? Popular Dutch confectionery company Tony's Chocolonely work with over 1,000 farmer members from CAYAT, as well as several other Ivorian co-operatives, as part of their efforts to end exploitation and child labor. Information on this can be found in their open chain report here

Supermarket Aldi have also partnered with Tony's to deliver their own range of certified Fairtrade, responsibly sourced chocolate in accordance with Tony's Open Chain sourcing principles. Look out for it on the shelves as a Special Buy and read more here!

Purchase CAYAT Chocolate
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