In Soubré, the Ivory Coast Earthworm Foundation is involved in a project working with rural communities to develop income-generating activities that don’t damage the natural environment. The Ivory Coast, alongside Ghana, is the leading producer of cocoa worldwide.
Working with the wives of cocoa and rubber farmers living near the forest reserves in Niégré and Monts Kourabahi, the project aims to promote healthy forests and prosperous communities. Soubré is the capital of the Nawa region, where 40% of the Ivory Coast’s cocoa is grown, and is home to areas that have been heavily degraded by agriculture, including Niégré and Monts Kourabahi.
Agriculture in the region is supported by small farmers, who struggle with poor productivity due to their farming practices. As most are without a formal land title, they struggle with access to credit. Women also face further challenges related to equity and representation.
Working alongside partners including Godiva Chocolatier and state forestry agency Sodefor, the project looks to balancing farmers’ livelihoods and reducing damages to natural forests.
“Godiva is proud to support initiatives that regenerate healthy forests and create prosperous communities that centre the voices of women,” said Tara McTeague, Head of Godiva Global Corporate Communications. “As we continue our partnership with Earthworm Foundation, we are enthusiastic that initiatives like these VSCAs will continue to diversify farmer incomes and promote the ongoing regeneration of the regional landscape.”
The VSCAs are self-help groups set up and run by women and men. Members meet to learn how to save and manage funds, consider income-generating activities, borrow to develop projects and repay these loans in the short term (a period of three months).
“These groups are structured and have procedures to ensure they function properly. Members freely choose their leaders – a president, secretary, treasurer, accountants and key holders,” explained Eléonore N’Gbesso, Programme Manager at Earthworm Foundation. “They hold weekly meetings, at which they deposit shares according to procedures. Funds and documents recording the movement of funds are kept in a cash box provided by the treasurer or other designated people.”
Five VSCAs have been created with the participation of 148 participants. Members were given training and advice on how to raise funds, save money, manage a common fund, develop project loans and plan loan repayments. Djodjo Karidja, the wife of a cocoa farmer and member of VSCAs located at Obrouayo village, said the access to credit allowed her to do business and save money.
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Editor, International Confectionery
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