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FAQ: Sustainable Farms
What does 'Sustainable Farms' mean?
Sustainable Farms is one of the two pillars of Purdys' Sustainable Cocoa Program. It means training, vocational education and increased incomes for farmers and their families. Sustainable Farms means improved agricultural productivity for farmers.
Improved productivity (high quality, more plentiful crops) leads to better farmer incomes, which in turn results in a better standard of living. Purdys considers our co-op farmer partners critically important to our business.
Purdys' Sustainable Farms pillar is supported by programming focused on farmer education and environmental sustainability and includes:
- Improving safe working conditions.
- Interest-free loans for farmers to assist their agriculture practices and harvests to help them become self-sufficient.
- Provision of education and tools to facilitate long-term sustainable management of land and reduction of overall carbon footprint.
- Good Agriculture Program (GAP) module taught in Farmer Field Schools that includes education on basic agricultural practices (weeding and pruning, crop diversification and shade management).
- Yield Enhancement Services (YES) which includes advanced farmer training, rejuvenation of farms from existing lands, crop protection, grafting, replanting, and the establishment of nurseries to germinate seedlings.
- The Cocoa Centre of Excellence in Pacobo, Côte d'Ivoire - a brand new facility dedicated to advanced farmer education with the objective to train farmers who can then share their knowledge with others in their community. The current goal is to train approximately 300 farmers per year and includes both field and classroom facilities, nurseries for cocoa plants and shade trees and fermentation and drying facilities to demonstrate proper post-harvest management practices.
- Support for co-ops wishing to be certified to join Cocoa Horizons including assistance with developing and maintaining business systems such as record keeping and internal control systems. There are currently 61 Cocoa Horizons co-ops in the Côte d'Ivoire with anywhere between 100 to 200 farmers in each co-op.
- Solar energy programs in cocoa-growing communities.
- Techniques to improve bean fermentation efficiency processes and reduce waste.
- Biodiversity preservation for wild lands, waterways and wildlife habitats, ecosystem, water and soil conservation.
What are Farmer Field Schools?
QPP Farmer Field Schools are educational modules that take place during the 9-month cocoa growing season. There are approximately 550 Farmer Field Schools in Côte d'Ivoire and 75 in Cameroon, with plans to increase numbers in both countries. Each session consists of a group of 30 - 40 farmers and uses demonstration plots and various techniques to communicate the Certification Capacity Enhancement curriculum developed jointly by Rainforest Alliance (RFA), UTZ Certified and Fairtrade International (FLO), Solidaridad and German International Development Co-operation (GIZ). The World Cocoa Foundation, of which Purdys is a member, was also instrumental in the development of the CCE curriculum and is currently being executed in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria.
Farmer field schools also include modules on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) which educate farmers on a variety of sustainable best practices including post-harvest management techniques, crop diversification, composting, farm rehabilitation and grafting, plus basic business skills and social issues such as labour practices and child protection.
Through these field schools, farmers also learn how to manage their lands sustainably to ensure they remain fruitful and productive for future generations of cocoa farmers. Topics such as environmental preservation, waste reduction and proper recycling methods are also covered.
RFA certified farms have all met rigorous social and environmental standards set by the Sustainable Agricultural Network (SAN), the oldest and largest coalition of NGOs striving to improve commodity production in the tropics.
How do farmers, their families and cocoa growing communities benefit from sustainable cocoa programs such as RFA, Cocoa Horizons and TCHOSource?
RFA, Cocoa Horizons and TCHOSource all offer cocoa farmers extensive training to help improve crop quality, crop yield and overall farm management. Farmers who receive this training are in turn responsible for transferring skills to others in their community, thereby facilitating the perpetuation of knowledge transfer and the learning of best practices.
The end result is that these cocoa farmers are able to earn more from their crops and consequently improve their quality of life. These programs also work with co-operatives and local union representatives to ensure farmers and their families' needs are met in areas such as health care, education, youth programs and community development. Click here to learn more about Farmer Field Schools, The Rainforest Alliance (RFA), Cocoa Horizons and TCHOSource.
Why do you give loans instead of grants?
Sustainable cocoa programs offer co-operatives, farmers and their communities support in the form of interest-free loans. These loans are typically given at the start of each harvest and the recipients are expected to pay back the loan during the crop season. The money used for loans typically stays within the community, and can then be loaned out to other farmers, returned once more, and loaned again in a similar fashion to a microcredit system.
A common question when discussing sustainable cocoa programs is 'why is money loaned and not simply given to co-operatives and farmers?' The answer stems from the basic fundamental principles behind sustainable cocoa farming - these programs are designed for long term success. Rather than issuing a one-time grant, these loans are provided to assist farmers while they learn and adopt sustainable farming techniques to be perpetuated and continually improved, indefinitely. This process encourages farmers to produce high quantity yields with high quality cocoa that can be sold at a better price, leading to an improved livelihood for the farmer and his or her family, and a more stable community.
Purdys strongly believes in the long-term and permanent improvement of cocoa farmers' livelihoods that can be facilitated with the help of interest-free loans via programs such as Cocoa Horizons and RFA.
What are the environmental benefits of sustainable cocoa programs?
Through their programming, Cocoa Horizons, RFA and TCHOSource ensure the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, including wildlife habitat, water, and soil in cocoa communities. Additionally, farmer training programs teach the importance of proper harvesting techniques and post-harvest practices that further contribute to environmental sustainability. Each of these programs is designed to promote fair profitability for cocoa farmers, with the intention to ensure farms and business are viable, stable and sustainable for future generations whilst meeting today's needs for cocoa.