Give women more responsibility!
Alida N'Takpe-Coulibaly, founder and president of the SCOOP-RASSO cooperative (on the left), and the cooperative's director, Mariette Kouaka, stand for an ambitious cocoa producer community. Both women know what they want and are ambassadors also of the high percentage of women at RASSO.
June 2019: Women are the heart of the family
Alida, RASSO is a cooperative with a particularly high proportion of female members. Do you see women in a special role?
Alida: Empowering women is good for the family. To improve the family's standard of living, we must go through women. Women are the heart of the family.
I encourage women to take an interest in agriculture, to take an active role in their husband's field of activity, and in turn to assert themselves as producers. To do this, I go with other women to cooperatives and to the villages. We explain to husbands, fathers and the village chief that we are not coming to take their place.
We make them understand that it is good for them to give us the space we Need.
Why is it still difficult for women to be independent cocoa farmers?
A: Our government has passed a law that allows women to inherit land. But here with us, in the villages, this law is not recognized. So we talk to the men. We ask them to leave land to their wives and to bequeath land to their daughters.
January 2019: RASSO's plans for the future
In January 2019, Alida N'Takpe-Coulibaly came to Germany. She was invited to speak about the living conditions of farmers in Côte dIvoire at the event of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa at the ISM (Trade fair for sweets and snacks) in Cologne (more here).
Alida also used the opportunity to hold talks with companies at the fair. Her concern: RASSO should be certified.
Alida: We are a young cooperative. Three years old. We have to do certification.
Most cooperatives in Côte d'Ivoire are certified. The certificate gives them the right to a premium.
To get cocoa, you have to offer a good price. If competitors buy cocoa with a premium and you don't have a premium, it's very difficult to compete. So we need a premium to be able to offer something more to the producer. Because what is the advantage for the cocoa farmers to be a member of a cooperative if it can't give them a bonus?
That's why we have to make this certificate. Because if we don't have a certificate, the producers will tell us: Yes, it's true, you have great projects, but we don't earn more with you. And we are interested in our income. You have to be able to pay us bonuses so that we can stay with you.
What are the next steps?
A: We need a certificate, and we need a partner who will also enable us to sell the cocoa we produce. This partner must be willing to pre-finance the purchase of cocoa.
We supply him with the cocoa and with him we integrate a certification program.
Maybe we do it another way, not through an exporter. If we get the credit directly from a bank, we can buy cocoa and finance the certification independently.
And are there already plans for the future?
A: Our long-term goal is to market our cocoa in Europe and other countries.
Visiting SCOOP-RASSO in November 2018
We met Alida N'Takpe-Coulibaly during our project visit in November 2018 and asked her about her motives.
Alida, what prompted you to start a cooperative?
Alida: We saw the suffering of our parents who could not earn money from their work. We created the cooperative to solve a number of problems.
I have a master's degree in business and management. I want to develop new solutions for agriculture and improve the standard of living of our parents.
Where do you see major problems?
A: In the diversification of our cultivation. There are two problems here. First, we lack opportunities to sell the products. The farmers often live far away. And there is no road to transport the products.
When it is the buyer who has to come to the farmers, he buys the cocoa at a very low price.
The second problem is to organize local processing. In the harvest season, there are products in abundance. But we cannot preserve tomatoes and okra. If that were different, the cocoa farmers could sell these products at any time. That would provide them with additional income.