Africa’s food system is linked with many issues, including food security, water scarcity and the need to make crops more resilient. For raw material suppliers ofi, a cooperative model is the best way to meet these challenges. Flora Coffi Sika, ofi’s Head of Sustainability in Africa, tells her FoodNavigator more about it.
A particular complaint about the African food system is that food supply chains are currently not structured to maximize the food system’s potential.
Poorly positioned food factories in Africa, lacking quality raw materials and the capital to buy them, are sometimes running at less than 50% of their capacity. This further means that African consumers are estimated to spend about 60% of their income on food (whereas consumers in Europe or the US he spends 10%).
For raw material professionals like ofi, cooperatives offer a resilient and sustainable sourcing model, Sika said.This is a way to scale up support from our teams on the ground to positively impact more farmers and communities where the chocolate, coffee and nuts we all love come from. ”
Giving farmers choice and a voice
Ofi’s traditions are rooted in African communities, with local teams building relationships for nearly 20 years. Today the company sources cocoa, coffee and cashews from over 350 of his partner cooperatives, on which he represents over 170,000 smallholder farmers who depend on cashews as a source of income and food security. doing.
“The communication channels and collaboration between members that exist under a well-managed co-operative allow members to have a collective voice.said Shika. “Also, the support provided by our agronomists and field teams is more ambitious due to the benefits of having to deal with only a single responder in terms of payments, legal processes and support infrastructure. could be something.
“For many small cashew, coffee and cocoa farmers, learning about proper pruning, organic composting, post-harvest processing and storage will be the first formal education they can access. It will act as a hub for farmers to invest in training and resources, providing farmers with information, inputs, credit and access to markets.”Shika said. “Through a trainer training model and year-round support, farmers are collectively empowered to produce more and better quality. They are role models and agents for their communities and lead by example for other farmers. ”
“For the most vulnerable farmers, our ability to provide pre-financing to co-ops allows them to purchase the seeds, fertilizers, tools they need and maximize their yields and incomes. Importantly, it means co-ops can pay for their crops immediately upon delivery.”
However, unlocking this value often requires a degree of ‘specialization’ of co-operatives, and in some cases local purchasing structures to be set up from scratch to enable direct sourcing. there is. Today, ofi’s local team works with his AFPEs (agricultural and food professionals) to assess cooperative leadership skills and provide targeted training and coaching.
“Even in the areas where we operate, where cooperatives are not incorporated, our local teams are grouping farmers to form a formal structure for cooperatives and expand training and capacity building efforts. We are working to replicate the benefits that cooperatives offer toShika told me.
In Nigeria, for example, cocoa is a major cash crop, but limited access to land, financial services, education and markets are just some of the barriers to production. Ofi’s team grouped his 48,000 cocoa farmers spread across 1,700 communities into 19 clusters, and appointed a farmer leader and his 11 board members to each cluster. Over 140 field staff work with them to conduct sustainability training on everything from pruning and shade tree management to child labor monitoring and conservation activities, and then train farmers within each cluster. I will tell you.
On the eastern slopes of Mount Elgon in Uganda, a region heavily reliant on coffee production and vulnerable to weather fluctuations, the ofi team worked with groups of farmers to create demonstration plots to produce the most efficient crops for different populations. test, measure and apply effective livelihood income strategies.farmer segment[i].
Promoting an inclusive approach for women and youth
Co-operatives also serve as a powerful vehicle for promoting equality, innovation and behavior change in rural areas, Sika explained. “They provide an important listening mechanism to better understand the needs of our communities and help us know where to direct our investments, from literacy programs and financial training to health and education infrastructure. We are working with cooperatives to develop action plans for women and youth participation and training on good work practices.”
As an example of what this is really like, co-ops play a key role in helping ofi’s cocoa team deploy child labor monitoring across all of its sustainability programs. . “And in support of our restoration efforts, NECAB, one of our partner cooperatives in Grand Zatry, southwestern Côte d’Ivoire, will use its premiums to help working parents send their children to kindergarten. We decided to build a kindergarten as a safe place to leave children instead of taking them. Farm.”
As for the next generation of farmers, co-ops in Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon have sent offi-trained “pruning troupes” as a service, providing young people with additional jobs and income for eight months of the year. . Farmers, of course, benefit from this service as an alternative to the training and use of tools and labor required to prune cocoa and coffee trees.
“Entrepreneurship training also applies to women.” Shika said. “By using the ofi fund, cooperatives can provide women with the funds and tools to establish an independent income stream from activities such as growing food crops and beekeeping, and to support their families. And by participating in sector partnerships such as the SheTrades program of the International Trade Center (ITC) in Côte d’Ivoire, we can expand and improve the support and services we provide to women farmers through comprehensive agricultural extension models. can.”
The Importance of the “First Mile” for Supply Chain Transparency
We were told that cooperation models could further help support responsible and sustainable sourcing.
“We have full control over the crops we grow on our farms, such as almonds in Australia and the United States and black pepper in Vietnam.”The deer observed. “But the majority of the coffee, cashews and coffee we source comes from fragmented supply chains, making traceability more difficult.”
However, cooperatives, as legal entities, carry out internal monitoring and training for their members, which is the basis for producing raw materials in a socially responsible, economically profitable and environmentally sustainable manner. You can demonstrate compliance with the terms of an Agricultural Supplier Code.
“Collaboration also facilitates the traceability of the cocoa, coffee and nut ingredients we offer our customers.”Coffey added. Co-op managers collect information about farmers, their farms and social conditions on ofi’s own smallholder technology platform, his Olam Farmer Information System (OFIS). While in the warehouse, managers are trained to record transactions in the Digital Supplier Engagement (DSE) app using unique lot IDs generated for each shipment. With information from these digital tools, ofi provides full traceability in the ‘first mile’ of his chain of supply for co-op sourced products.
“In a nutshell, our experience working with agricultural cooperatives has had a positive impact on third-party supply chains and the sustainability story behind a cup of coffee, chocolate or snack bar. It was an opportunity to assure that it was something.”