You participated in the International Cocoa Conference in Germany in 2018. What was of particular value to you and your cooperative?
Fleur: This conference was my first international experience. I found everything interesting, especially the topics discussed about the income of cocoa farmers. It is sad that the producer who plays such a big role in the value chain lives in such difficult conditions. At least when conference participants bring up the subject, it means they are aware of the situation. That made me happy, and it also made the producers happy. The fact that the topic is being debated at an international conference means that solutions are also being found. That gives hope.
In addition, the role of women in cocoa farming is being discussed. For a long time, it has been believed that cocoa farming is only for the men. Now people are realizing that many women are also involved in cocoa farming. This is a revolution. These women must be supported and accompanied so that their living conditions are improved. This is one of the goals of the PRO-PLANTEURS project. As part of income-generating activities, we at ESPOIR are currently implementing livestock and poultry projects. In this we are supported by PRO-PLANTEURS. We would like to thank the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO) and all the other partners of the project that PRO-PLANTEURS promotes the self-reliance of women.
Because of the financial independence of women through agriculture: isn't it difficult to achieve this goal when only men own land and don't attach much importance to vegetable cultivation?
F: I think women can do it. But first you have to make women producers aware of the importance of diversification. We started doing this years ago and have now achieved good results. For example, our cooperative has created community plots where cassava and vegetables are grown. We are also involved in livestock and fish farming.
Not owning a plot of land should not slow down the women. There are other activities that can help to strengthen the role of women. For example, the women can work as traders or as sellers of goods. Many projects could be designed and implemented in this way so that the women realize their needs and become more and more independent.
Since you have good experience: What recommendations can you give to new cooperatives coming in?
F: At lunch, I sat at the table with the head of a new cooperative and told him to take everything seriously. I told him that PRO-PLANTEURS is a true project. Many projects have been designed, but this kind of project is new. PRO-PLANTEURS manages to take everything into account, to address all the important points. Therefore, the new cooperatives should take to heart everything they learn in this project. They can get many benefits from it.
For example, my cooperative has greatly advanced PRO-PLANTEURS by training us in human resources management, through advanced training and in workshops. I run the cooperative even though I have no training in management. Thanks to PRO-PLANTEURS, however, I have learned everything important to control our activities and make important decisions. Even the Chairman of the Board of Directors of our cooperative, who was otherwise reluctant to attend meetings and meetings, now attends all the training and coaching offered by TECHNOSERVE, all the meetings and sessions, and even sometimes calls meetings himself.
At our meetings and participation in important conferences like the one in Germany and the PRO-PLANTEURS day here in Côte d'Ivoire, one can make contact with new people and share experiences. This brings many advantages and opportunities. For example, at the conference in Germany, we met financial partners with whom we want to establish business relationships. All of this helps so that we can run our cooperatives better and better and learn to think big and have a bigger vision than we had before. We are even considering processing our cocoa ourselves regionally, why not? Finally, we try everything possible to work well, so that our partners know that they are not supporting us in vain.
Thank you very much, Fleur N'DRI!
Fleur describes impressions of her participation in the international cocoa conference in Berlin in the following video:
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Impressions from the 4th World Cocoa Conference
Three representatives of PRO-PLANTEURS cooperatives participated in the 4th WCC in Berlin. Fleur, George and Charlotte describe their expectations and impressions in this article.