One of the messages that came out of the last World Cocoa Conference in Berlin this past Spring was that 40% of cocoa farmers in West Africa are living in conditions of extreme poverty. Is that really true?
As with many topics in cocoa and chocolate in growing countries, the answers are not that clear. In speaking with Anna Laven, a member of the core research team on this project, most if not all farmers have diversified and cocoa is just one of the crops they produce. In fact, the research revealed that cocoa farmers are likely to be more diversified than farmers who do not grow cocoa.
There are two aspects of this study that jump out at me that are unusual in ways that are groundbreaking and potentially setting benchmarks for future studies looking at similar and related issues.
- The dataset has been published and can be downloaded by anyone for analysis. The open sourcing of the dataset was a goal of the project from the very beginning. One reason coming to conclusions that affect policy is difficult is that it's most often impossible to assess the underlying data that leads to those conclusions – the data are proprietary. By publishing the dataset it's possible for independent researchers to look at the data using different tools. Publishing the dataset also makes it possible to compare it with other datasets that add depth and perspective.
- The researchers designed a methodology with ato integrate three elements in particular. These are ‘on farm’, ‘between farm’ and ‘within household’. This approach is in contrast to other studies with narrower foci. The goal here is to not only get to an understanding of what, but to why, and to a better understanding of some of the human and market dynamics in play.
Of course, the conclusions reached only apply to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and comparisons between the two.
The first seven parts (of 15) have been published and are worth reading closely.