Solidaridad West Africa focuses on stimulating sustainable supply chains through innovations in production, marketing and trade relations, landscape management and policy enabling. In these efforts, Solidaridad simultaneously addresses food security, nutrition and community development.
Agriculture remains the main driver of economic development in the region. It accounts for a third of region’s Gross Domestic Product and employs on average 60% of the population. The model of agricultural growth in the region has been driven mainly by area expansion as opposed to crop intensification and use of technology.
Rapid urbanisation and population growth has resulted in increased food demand which the current model cannot support. The region, however, has sufficient human and natural resource potential to address these challenges.
The African Union, in response to the challenges, adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as the policy driver of agriculture in the sub-region. CAADP aims to sustain the annual agricultural sector GDP growth rate of 6% among all signatory member states.
Additionally, the ECOWAS Agriculture Policy seeks to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector.
Regional growth over the years has been hampered by a number of factors impacting negatively on productivity and livelihoods. Non-commercialized farming systems, land tenure, poor storage, poor transportation network and general degradation of natural resources are factors affecting agriculture.
Lack of infrastructure is a key challenge facing West Africa’s growth. Poor state of roads, low energy and water supply, lack of storage facilities and information and communications technology all affect competitiveness and investments in the region. Producer uptake of technology is also slowly affecting productivity levels. Small-scale mines located within the region, for example, continue to use rudimentary methods to produce gold, impacting negatively on the environment. The use of technology in agriculture is equally low and negligible.
The economy of the sub-region is largely driven by exports of raw materials and the importation of finished products. As an exporter of cheap raw materials, the economies of the region are more vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices. The relative stability enjoyed by the region over the past decade is threatened by the recent rise in violence and extremism in Nigeria and Mali. The result is poor investments and increased uncertainty.
Solidaridad's key achievements span across producer support programmes, voluntary certification, policy advocacy, food security, landscape management and smart sustainable land use. Some specific key achievements are described below.
Solidaridad implemented the Sustainable West Africa Oil Palm Programme (Phase 1) from 2012 to 2016.
It successfully piloted the setup and operations of 20 Rural Service Centers in cocoa growing communities through the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP). An innovative service delivery model for cocoa farmers to access a bouquet of production services for intensification and rehabilitation. A validated innovation is ready for scaling up.
Over 200 communities have developed Community Action Plans (CAP) under a partnership with Mondelez to create thriving cocoa communities, as well as improving farmer incomes through crop diversification; creating employment opportunities for young people in the cocoa sector, women empowerment and environmental sustainability.
The next generation of farmers
Capitalizing on the fact that West Africa produces 70 percent of global supply, Solidaridad is implementing a number of cocoa programmes with private sector companies, governments and other stakeholders in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria. The programmes are addressing challenges of productivity and service delivery.
- Palm oil
Solidaridad has been at the forefront of promoting yield intensification through the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP) to improve oil palm farm and mill profitability and sustainability. Learning sites have been established in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire to provide skills to improve knowledge of the farmers, producers and processors, as well as increase yields, farm productivity and profitability.
The Solidaridad gold programme seeks to improve the livelihoods of artisanal and small-scale miners and communities around them. In order to achieve this, Solidaridad works with small-scale mines to improve environmental health and safety, human rights, business practices and women’s economic empowerment.
- Cotton, Fruit & Vegetables, Soy
Food and climate change
Solidaridad has implemented various interventions aimed at mitigating climate change and increasing food security. Solidaridad promotes conservation farming as a tool for sustainable yield increases, and higher returns to labour. It also focuses on supporting farmers to meet the food and nutritional needs of their families as well as improving their economic well-being.
- Cotton, Cocoa, Palm oil
Smart and sustainable landscapes
Solidaridad works in partnership with public and private stakeholders to promote Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and ecosystem restoration for resilient production landscapes. It integrates climate-smart initiatives across six supply chains, namely cocoa, palm oil, cotton/soy, maize, gold and fruits and vegetables.
By working with a range of partners, we contributed to national development agendas in the region. Some 26 initiatives improved practices in cocoa, gold, coffee, cashew, and oil palm. Our work enhanced the quality of life of more than 60,000 smallholder farmers, workers, and small and growing businesses providing agricultural services. By harnessing partnerships, climate-smart practices, and digital innovations, our programmes assured high-performing, impactful interventions.
In spite of the fluid development environment, Solidaridad made significant accomplishments in West Africa by driving inclusive and sustainable solutions through smart practices in the cocoa, oil palm, gold and food security-related activities. In 2018, we established more than 60 new partnerships and deepened existing relationships with donors, governments, SMEs and the private sector. Solidaridad West Africa’s target of reaching an ambitious annual budget of 20 million euros was achieved through fundraising and implementing impactful projects and programmes. This contributed to the expansion of activities in the regional operational countries.
Despite funding challenges, the year 2017 has been rewarding due to the enormous commitment on the part of the entire staff of Solidaridad West Africa. During the year, Solidaridad deepened engagement with several donors from the European Union including the embassies of Sweden and the Netherlands. This led to the creation of three new funding agreements for programmes.
Developing and integrating innovative solutions to address supply chain challenges continued throughout the year. Solidaridad focused on validating the business case to establish rural service centres for cocoa farmers as well as the business case for cocoa farming as an enterprise using empirical data. New discussions centred on farmer service enterprises as a crucial factor for success if best management practices are to be scaled up at both the farm and mill levels.
Solidaridad West Africa continued its engagement with supply chain stakeholders in cocoa, oil palm, gold, and maize. This resulted in enhanced capacities of the producers and improved livelihoods of households. Through the promotion and adoption of best management practices and provision of supportive infrastructure, significant yield increases were recorded. For example, there was an average yield increase of about 50% in cocoa, 160% in oil palm and 67% in maize.
Solidaridad West Africa took its producer support programmes beyond voluntary certification standards by encouraging discussions on a new policy and working with partners to support producers in the various value chains.
Developing traceability solutions for artisanal and small-scale mines
Solidaridad’s gold programme, through its ‘Accelerator for Responsible Gold’ project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is providing support to small-scale gold mines to develop and implement traceability systems to keep well-documented records at every step of the mine value chain.
Promoting financial inclusion for women in cocoa-producing communities
Solidaridad’s Village Savings and Loan Association scheme, introduced in cocoa-producing communities, is charting the course for financial independence for women.
Supporting small businesses to access finance for COVID resilience
Solidaridad’s Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana, has been building the capacity of participating small and medium enterprises to roll out service delivery models, and supporting these enterprises to access finance amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boosting oil palm farming in Sierra Leone — teachers and army officers rise to the challenge
The Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Programme (SWAPP) seeks to contribute to the transformation of the oil palm sector in West Africa. In Sierra Leone, army members and teachers are getting involved to generate income, model self sufficiency, and raise the profile of farming.
Mobilizing communities for development initiatives
The Cocoa Life project, implemented by Solidaridad and funded by Mondelez International, seeks to transform and empower cocoa-producing communities to create ideal living conditions for themselves and their families.
Inspiring youth into oil palm cultivation in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has one of the most productive oil palm landscapes in West Africa with smallholder oil palm farmers accounting for 32,000 hectares of farmlands and producing 80% of the total fresh fruit bunches. Yet the average annual oil palm yield is just under three tons per hectare—almost seven times less than the global average yield of 25 tons per hectare per year.