Banking on innovation and sustainability in the cocoa value chain

Juliette Kouassi founded the cocoa cooperative ABOUd'CAO to support female producers and to not "throw anything away in the cocoa value chain, by rendering value to everything.

Thanks to an innovative idea and entrepreneurial spirit, Juliette Kouassi is a leader in her industry. Her cooperative with exclusively female members also breaks with traditional role definitions. (c) Aboud-Cao / Juliette Kouassi

Cocoa is Côte d’Ivoire’s main national product. I am convinced it has a future in the market here,” says Juliette Kouassi as she discusses the future of the ABOUd'CAO cocoa cooperative she runs and manages in the village of Aboudé. A former bank employee in the capital Abidjan and daughter of a cocoa farmer, Kouassi is convinced smallholders in Côte d’Ivoire should process their agricultural produce themselves to generate a proper living income from sustainable market opportunities. Two years ago, she gave up her job in finance and started the cooperative. The name ABOUd'CAO is no coincidence and translates to “where help is needed,” a direct reference to Kouassi’s life motto, “Why wait for help when you can solve the problem by yourself?”  


The cocoa farming industry in Côte d’Ivoire currently faces two major challenges. Income is low due to a drop in prices on the global market. Second, the value women can bring to agriculture is neglected. First, Juliette Kouassi explains, “Cocoa plantations are old, and orchards need to be renewed every 30-40 years. Productivity is already on the decrease, and recently sales have gone down, due to lack of international demand caused by COVID19.” As Kouassi describes, producers do not really have an alternative to cocoa. The country needs to take more advantage of the value chain domestically. “When incomes increase through local processing, farmers can better finance renewing their orchards."


My goal is that we don't throw anything away in the cocoa value chain, by rendering value to everything


Juliette calls it an integral transformation. Her approach is a shift in an industry that caters mainly for the global market. For producing chocolate from cocoa, the right technology and expertise are lacking. Hence, the cooperative markets and processes cocoa beans as dried fruit, unheard of until now in Côte d'Ivoire. The idea is to increase awareness, demand and value for cocoa in the local market. ABOUd'CAO has brought together 40 female farmers to process and sell their cocoa and a wide range of innovative products, such as coated cocoa beans with different local flavors (lemon or ginger), cocoa-husk tea, and even seasoning made out of fermented cocoa juice – with medicinal properties and benefits. That's how we created an own niche. Not only do we do not have competitors, we are also financially independent of the global market as we are only operating for the local market. In future, to transform more, we need to convince producers that local processing is profitable.” 


The cocoa sector also needs some other convincing. Juliette wants women to follow their own path and become entrepreneurs. Like in many other parts of the world, tradition makes it hard for women to pave their way independently of men. “It is still very difficult for women. We feel lonely,” she says. That is why the enterprise is designed around and together with the women from her home village. With her support, the cooperative has introduced a wholly sustainable approach and innovation to the cocoa value chain. Not only are all parts of the cocoa pod processed for further consumption. The work is done by women and earning them leadership, respect, a living income and independence in a male-dominated business. The cooperative is empowering its female members to become key players in the value chain, proving that women can be responsible for their own success – and men’s. “With demand for raw cocoa on the international market sinking,” she concludes, “Other producers, including men, are asking us to buy their cocoa. We are not quite there yet, but as long as demand continues to grow and producers see that we can provide stable incomes, we are on the right track. 


Meet the cocoa cooperative

In 2019, journalists from Deutsche Welle visited and portrayed Juliette Kouassi and her cocoa cooperative in Côte d'Ivoire for the SEWOH Advisory Board's program "Meet the People driving rural transformation".

This third-party content will not be displayed due to your lack of consent to third-party content.

Click here to edit your settings.

Go back

Ähnliche Beiträge

Farmers in revolt-their movement brings unity and hope

Since 2014, a law has guaranteed all Indians sufficient healthy food at affordable prices. Now one of the biggest waves of protest in history is rocking the subcontinent. Farmers are fighting back against laws that abolish guaranteed minimum prices and put nutrition programmes in jeopardy.  


Read more

Supply chain legislation: “The EU’s general principle is to support, not to punish”

Aside from the German Federal government, EU institutions are also encouraging the introduction of a supply chain law. What would be the consequences? Questions for Bettina Rudloff of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

Read more

The hope of development cooperation lays in innovation

Policy makers wish for innovation. But what is an innovation that truly takes Africa a step forward? With the support of the SEWOH partners, journalist Jan Grossarth took a critical look at the demand for innovation.

Is innovation a cure? A meaningless filler? Even problematic? And: In what way? Taking a critical post-colonial look at the past, the “innovation history” of Africa appears to be a double-edged sword, in any case. Historian Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, who teaches at MIT in the USA, deplores the failure and even largely destructive effect of “western” technology and knowledge exports to Africa. In his works about innovation in Africa, “capitalistic entrepreneurship” appears as “imperialism” in modified form and downright “parasitical” in its nature. A problematic definition of innovation, he says, has been transferred to Africa particularly from Europe. A definition that is limited to technical aspects, industrial scaling and commercial use.

Read more

From Space to Seed: Innovation for world nutrition

From crop forecasts out of space to resistant seeds: What ideas and technologies have been developed in recent years to revolutionize the world's nutrition? We present a selection of innovations that could be decisive in the fight against hunger.

Read more

Drones for Inclusive Growth in Agriculture

BASF’s project Drones for Smallholder Farmers aims to build an inclusive business model that will facilitate access of smallholders to drones for spraying crop protection products. A report by Dr. Diana Moran.

Read more

The world needs empowered farmers!

The world needs empowered farmers! But what does that mean and how can it be organized? With the support of the SEWOH partners, journalist Jan Grossarth has gathered guiding thoughts on the topic in an article.

Organised agricultural lobbying is rare in industrialised nations. Is the political influence of certain interest groups that have excellent parliamentary connections and work quietly behind the scenes in aid of meat exports or biomass subsidies excessively large and insufficiently transparent? Such questions are a subject of discussion in Europe and the USA, but also in Brazil or Argentina. And for good reason. With regard to global food security another, to some extent countervailing question arises: how can “good lobbying” for the development interests of the world’s smallholders emerge? Would it not, after all, be widely beneficial, and also necessary in order to ensure a stable global food supply, if the hundreds of millions of local farmers in Africa and Asia were able to represent their income- and development-related interests more effectively in parliaments, the media and international organisations?

Read more

Agroecology: a global political guiding perspective?

Agroecology is a popular buzzword in food policy worldwide. It is based on a complex concept that journalist Jan Grossarth, with the support of the SEWOH partners, has examined and called into question.

Agroecology cannot be defined in one phrase. It would take some pages. As a political guiding perspective – perhaps because of its variety – it is suitable to pleasing everyone. The European Commission is relying on this approach as part of the Green Deal as its 10-year transformation plan, and the term is also mentioned in the Farm to Fork food strategy of the EU Commission. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has commissioned its leading experts from the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to shed light on the approach in a 163-page report (the HLPE Report, 2019). The summary alone uses eleven key points in its definition. An agroecological approach, it says, “favours the use of natural processes, limits the use of external inputs, promotes closed cycles with minimal negative externalities and stresses the importance of local knowledge and participatory processes” – while also being designed to reduce social inequalities and to help the sciences to gain in importance. 

Read more

Agroecology at UN level: The FAO's Scaling up Agroecology Initiative

Growing scientific evidence and local experiences demonstrate how agroecology has the potential to offer a holistic response to the multiple and interrelated challenges facing food systems.

Read more

The garden of agroecology: A few real-life examples

The challenges of population growth, dwindling biodiversity and climate change require to rethink our current food systems and call for solution approaches in terms of an agroecological transformation.

Read more

Why the transformation of our food systems is imperative

Current crises highlight the need to transform food systems. Dr Sinclair, team leader of the World Food Security Committee, presents 13 agro-ecological principles that might be effective for change.

Read more

Ms Neubert, what is a trilemma? And what can be done about it?

In order to alleviate the trilemma of land use, the climate crisis, the destruction of biodiversity and the food crisis must be addressed simultaneously. Susanne Neubert explains in an interview what such strategies might look like.

Read more

Beyond your own field

An exchange program between the German Farmers' Association and the Andreas Hermes Academy for young German and Ugandan farmers shows: North-South cooperation works best at eye level. Four graduates report on what is possible when farmers learn from each other.

Read more

A globally popular export

"One for all, all for one" - this motto became the basis for action of agricultural cooperatives that were founded in the 19th century. They became a success story that will continue to be written well into the 21st century.

Read more

Meet the people: Joseph Ngaah

Joseph Ngaah is chairman of the Kakamega County Farmers Association in Kenya. Through his commitment at national and local level, he gives farmers a voice - both in the media and with political decision-makers. Within the SEWOH, he cooperates with the Andreas Hermes Academy, the Green Innovation Centers and TMG - Sustainable Think Tank.

Read more

Labels, customs tariffs and supply chain legislation: Do they benefit or harm smallholders?

In the discussion about sustainability in supply chains, European states focus on labels, customs tariffs and government regulations. With the support of the SEWOH partners, Jan Grossarth questions these measures.

After the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh in April 2013, killing over a thousand textile workers under the rubble, the issue of human rights in sewing factories dominated global news for a few days. The initial shock turned into shame. After all, wasn’t everyone who bought cheap T-shirts and jeans somehow responsible? This was followed by a political debate: Hadn’t the disaster happened in a domain where the state, i.e. Bangladesh, should have ensured compliance with its laws? Or, on the other hand, do we not have a say in the regulations determining how the products we consume are manufactured? Not only through consumption, but through our government and companies?

Read more

Deforestation and ecosystem conversion: a strict EU legal framework is imperative

In the article, Christine Scholl, Senior Advisor at WWF Germany, explains why a binding and comprehensive EU regulation is crucial in avoiding deforestation and conversion of valuable ecosystems and what such legislation must take into account.

Read more

The path from the greenhouse into practice

Innovative ideas like apps are popular showcases. But for the successful implementation of an innovation, thinking beyond the boundaries of projects is necessary. Lennart Woltering explains in an interview how to move from the greenhouse into practice.

Read more

Babban Gona's holistic financing approach

What are innovative financing mechanisms and how can financing help to scale innovations? Kola Masha, Managing Director of Babban Gona explains in an interview his holistic business model, which he built up in Nigeria with financial help and support from the German KfW. 

Read more

Even innovations take their time

Some good ideas never become reality. It takes patience, long-term thinking and the courage to learn from mistakes. Based on a conversation with software developer Simon Riedel, journalist Jan Rübel focused on the challenges of innovation in an international development context.

Read more