Nico Roozen (second from right) meets with H. E. Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire (middle) with a delegation from Solidaridad.
“It is urgent that governments make the right investments, promote good governance and create the right infrastructural base for Africa’s economic take off. This will help the continent to feed its own populations, create jobs for its teeming youth and drive industrialization,” he said.
He made the call during high-level meetings held in January with government officials, policy makers, regulators of the cocoa, oil palm and private sectors, as well as bilateral and multilateral development partners in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In the two countries, Solidaridad is promoting inclusive and sustainable supply chains with cocoa and oil palm as major commodities.
Nico Roozen highlighted the need for intensification and productivity at the farm level, as well as diversification of cocoa and oil palm farming with the view to reducing total farm area cultivated whilst releasing land for other cash and food crops. This, he said, would make economies and farmers in West Africa become more resilient to global, regional and local price shocks whilst maintaining their competitiveness in a fast growing and changing global economic landscape.
He emphasized Solidaridad’s focus of “farmer first” in its approach to improving livelihoods in farming communities.
Nico Roozen (third from left) meets with Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, Minister of Agriculture (fourth from left), with Solidaridad delegation.
Dealing with negative reporting
Nico Roozen bemoaned the negative reporting on child labour and slavery allegedly associated with the production of cocoa and oil palm in West Africa. He called on the sector regulators to continue to address these emerging concerns and invest in independent studies that reflect the real structural situation of cocoa-sector labour conditions.
He emphasized the need for West African governments to proactively tackle deforestation in cocoa and oil palm landscapes beyond externally led efforts. He assured the delegates of Solidaridad’s preparedness to partner with national governments and industry to address these concerns.
A pledge to deepen partnerships with Solidaridad
In Cote d'Ivoire, the high-level engagement included meetings with H. E. Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the Prime Minister of the Republic; Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, the Minister of Agriculture; Yves Brahima Kone, the Director General of the Conseil du Cafe Cacao and the Director General of Palm CI.
In Ghana, Roozen met with Joseph Aidoo Boahen, the Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board and his management team; Ron Strikker, the Ambassador of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, some senior staff of the African Development Bank, the Swiss Embassy and many other partners.
Nico Roozen (second from left) meets with Yves Brahima Kone, the Director General of the Conseil du Cafe Cacao (third from left), in the company of officials from Solidaridad.
The stakeholders renewed their pledge to deepen the strategic partnerships with Solidaridad to implement sustainable solutions and address critical development challenges. They touted Solidaridad’s unique positioning as a solution-oriented civil society organization that offers practical and viable alternatives.
Accompanying Nico Roozen were Mariam Dao Gabala, the International Supervisory Board Chairperson of Solidaridad Network; Isaac Gyamfi, the Regional Director for Solidaridad West Africa; Suzan-Hermina Yemidi and Ahmadou Cisse, the Country Representatives of Solidaridad for Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
Nico Roozen (first from right) meets with Joseph Boahen, Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (middle), in the company of officials from Solidaridad and the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Solidaridad’s 50th Anniversary celebration
Nico Roozen’s visit to selected operational countries of Solidaridad West Africa comes during a momentous year for Solidaridad in celebration of its 50th anniversary as a global network organization, whose presence dates back to 1969. The executive director stressed key achievements of Solidaridad Network during these past years by keepings its “brains and boots” on the ground and addressing sustainability issues affecting more than 1 million farmers globally.
“The ambitions of the UN Sustainable Development Goals has been the mainstay of our work, as we strive for partnerships with governments, the private sector, trade partners, consumers, producers and corporates,” he said, during his interaction with the media.
He said Solidaridad seeks to achieve speed and scale for the benefit of many more farmers as it embarks on digital technology innovations critical for its sector transformation agenda.
Nico Roozen expressed Solidaridad’s wish for governments to imbibe and continually mainstream sustainability considerations in their approaches and strategies. He further assured Solidaridad’s support to governments and the private sector for pursuing efforts that address sustainability by placing the farmer at the centre of countries’ economic transformation initiatives.