CAYAT is a cocoa and coffee farming co-operative, based around the towns of Adzopé and Yakassé-Attobrou in the South East of Côte d’Ivoire.
Background to CAYAT
Like many areas across Côte d’Ivoire, the La Mé region where CAYAT is located is home to many cocoa farmers. The national cocoa body (Conseil Café-Cacao, or CCC) estimate around a quarter of the population of the region are cocoa producers, making cocoa one of the main sources of income, particularly in rural areas. In the past 10 years, world cocoa prices have been at their highest since the 1970s, yet due to the structure of the industry farmers haven’t benefited from this volatility. In a cruel irony, as world cocoa prices have plummeted since 2016, the price received by farmers dropped by 30-40% from 2016 – 2017. Research estimates suggest that a typical cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire earns under $1 per day, yet Fairtrade’s benchmark for a living income is $2.50 per day. The low price paid for cocoa leaves many basic rights, such as access to healthcare, schooling, safe and secure housing and even clean water out of reach to many. Without the capital to invest in their farms or access training to improve production, and a lack of other employment opportunities, cocoa farmers quickly find themselves with low yields and low incomes due to this lack of investment, creating a vicious cycle
CAYAT was formed on 19 October 2010 with 283 members, to unite cocoa farmers to be stronger together, and to tackle the deep socio-economic challenges in the region, whilst farming sustainably and boosting farmer incomes.
They became Fairtrade certified in 2012, and with investment of the Fairtrade Premium, CAYAT has been able to grow to 3,089 members organized in 38 village groups. The average farm size of a member is around 4 hectares, and all together, they produce over 8,000 tonnes of cocoa per year, around 23% of which is sold on Fairtrade terms (2018 figure). CAYAT sells to some of the biggest Fairtrade chocolate brands like Kit Kat. Women farmers represent around 10 percent of that number.
Focus on women
The wellbeing of farmers is at the heart of CAYAT’s vision, and women’s empowerment is a big part of that.
CAYAT created a Women’s Society in 2015 to focus on training women farmers to play a greater role in the co-operative. The society has since grown to 413 members – not only women farmers who are registered members of the co-operative, but also the wives of men who belong to CAYAT. The society aims to help women access land, and us Fairtrade Premium to run projects so that more women can be financially independent, and contribute to household income and food security.
Two members of CAYAT attended training at Fairtrade’s Women’s School of Leadership. Rosine Bekoin and Yaoua Adingra now share what they learnt with other women in their communities. CAYAT farmers have also invested in a number of projects to benefit their communities:
- Income diversification – Rather than farmers relying only on cocoa, an important strategy for CAYAT is to support farmers to earn income through different means. And so women have planted fields to grow other crops like cassava, bananas, aubergines and chillis to earn more income and give them more financial independence.
- Farmers have also built a chicken farm with Premium funds, which is run by 25 members of the Women’s Society to provide another source of income. Each woman in the project earns on average 25,000 CFA francs (around £34) per month from selling the eggs.
- Another output of the farm is organic, natural fertiliser – the waste from the chickens. A 50kg bag of fertiliser normally costs 18,000 CFA francs (£25) but the bags produced at the chicken farm are sold to members for just 1,000 (£1.36). This reduces the costs of production for farmers, and allows them to farm organically.
Focus on children
One serious consequence of low cocoa prices and incomes of farmers observed by CAYAT is the challenge faced by cocoa farmers to be able to send their children to school. Tackling this issue is a big priority, and through their investment in classrooms, providing interest-free loans, and distributing free school supplies CAYAT aim to get 4000 children back in to school each year.
At Les Piazons School in Yakassé-Attobrou, CAYAT funded the construction of three nursery classrooms with Fairtrade Premium, providing opportunities for children to attend school and learn in safety that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.
More Fairtrade Premium investments
- Radio CAYAT: CAYAT farmers can live up to 40km away from the co-operative’s headquarters, and many aren’t able to attend training sessions in person. And so the farmers used the Premium to launch Radio CAYAT, which communicates important messages, information and training to farmers in remote areas. Topics include Fairtrade Standards, community development, child labour and the importance of women’s empowerment.
- Warehouses: Co-operatives are better able to process and export cocoa on behalf of their members thanks to the bigger warehouses to store cocoa beans they built using Premium. They have also been able to increase their fleet of trucks from one to six to transport cocoa beans to the port for export.
- Water and electricity infrastructure: Bauolekro is a remote village of 300, mainly cocoa farmers, who are members of CAYAT. The village is 50 years old and was established when Bauolo people moved to the area in search of work and opportunities. In the half a century since then, development has been slow, and homes are largely made of mud and basic wooden structures. Farmers invested Fairtrade Premium in a solar panel, which provides enough power for the only television in the village. Villagers come to watch the news or cartoons, depending on their age. The panel also powers a handful of lights, which means children can read and study after dark. Farmers also used Premium to build a water pump, providing clean drinking water for the first time to this remote village.
- Housing/building supplies: A hardware store built next to the co-operative’s headquarters provides essential building equipment at an affordable price so that farmers can improve their homes.
Find out more about CAYAT by following them on twitter @cayatcoop