A Certification Management System for Cocoa Cooperatives

We are currently partnering with Root Capital to provide cocoa cooperatives and farmer organisations in Cote d’Ivoire access to a digital data collection tool (the Certification Management System).  This allows them to collect data on their farmers and manage the data requirements for certification labels.  This is a new development, and one we think will have a significant impact on the cooperatives and their members.  We hope to see similar systems rolled out in other countries and commodities.  In this interview Hannah asks Mian (GeoT’s country leader in Cote d’Ivoire) about the project and why he thinks it will support cooperatives and farmers.

Hannah: Before discussing the project, can you tell us a bit about yourself and the work you have done in cocoa?

Mian: I am Mian AMOAKON. I am specialist in agricultural value chain crosscutting issues with particular focus on Farmer Organizations strengthening activities to make them more professional and sustainable.  I have over 15 years’ experience in program management mainly in cocoa sector.  I have been GeoTraceability’s Country Manager in Cote d’Ivoire since 2014 and I’m based in Abidjan.

Hannah: What does the Certification Management System let cooperatives do?

Mian: the Certification Management System lets cooperatives:

  • Collect data using a mobile app
  • Meet various certification schemes requirements simultaneously without complications
  • Have digitized data on their members that is accurate, reliable and updated
  • Know key aspects of their producers’ farms, including the area, farm characteristics, farming practices, and the history of production and deliveries

Hannah: Why is this important?

Mian: this is important because it facilitates cooperatives’ work and allow them to:

  • Better track their members, for example assess loyalty level of members by identifying farmers underselling or overselling
  • Better design member support programs
  • Save time and reduce data collection costs
  • Monitor loans and cash advances made to members against deliveries
  • Better data archiving and real-time monitoring
  • Increase their credibility towards their commercial and financial partners

Hannah: How much does it cost cooperatives?

Mian: it cost 12,000$ for the setup fees (upfront charge on Services Agreement signature) and 4,000$ for the ongoing fees (annual charge on the anniversary date of the Services Agreement).  For this project, Root Capital is funding the set-up fee and the cooperatives pay the ongoing fees.  In return, cooperatives give access aggregated farmers data to Root Capital.

Hannah: What is the best thing about the System in terms of how it can help cooperatives and farmers?

Mian: cooperatives spend too much time, energy and money on the data collection process with many risk (for instance loosing filled out paper forms or gathering unreliable data) and most certification agencies are pushing them to adopt digital data collection tools without giving them any support.  One cooperative said that they invest up to 5 million CFA (about 9,000$) a year for data collection.  GeoT’s System gives more credibility and efficiency at the lowest cost to cooperatives.

Hannah: How the Certification Management System helps cooperatives and farmers to access better markets?

Mian: In many instances, farmers and their organisations are not the certificate holders which means that they have to sell their cocoa to international traders and local buyers who hold the certificate and sell certified beans to off takers.  Cooperatives are dependant on aggregators to access certified markets and the premiums paid.

The GeoT Certification Management System allows the cooperatives to access certified markets directly and negotiate their own business terms with off takers.  It is a great way to empower them.