During my last visit to Ghana, I had the pleasure of speaking with many farmers participating in our Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. During these interactions, I observed a wonderful increasing sense of ownership that these farmers have gained through our program’s participatory training methods.
At least once a year I visit Ghana to see first hand how our Program with Source Trust is progressing. During these visits I receive activity updates from the implementation team on the ground, and we discuss the opportunities our Program has for potential improvements and new innovations. However, the most important part of these visits is travelling into the field to speak with the farming families. I want to learn directly from the farmers what they think about the Program, what they like about it, and where they see opportunities for changes and improvements.
As there are more than 45’000 farmers participating in our Program, I can typically only speak to a small portion of them. However, this time the local team reserved a time slot on a local radio station that is often tuned into by farmers, and they organized a ‘Durbar,’ a ceremony where farmers gather from different villages. I was thus able to reach more farmers than ever before. These face-to-face meetings are especially beneficial as farmers have the chance to raise questions and concerns, which aid in the improvement of our Program, and farmers are able to see “a face from the other side” that creates something from the beans they are growing. They especially enjoy being able to taste what their beans are turned into, as I always bring an entire suitcase full of chocolate treats.
Speaking with the farmers is always important to me as I want to make sure that they understand the key aspects of our Program and that they know we are there for them. Our Program supports them in agricultural and community developments, yet I always emphasize that they are ultimately responsible for actively fostering change. This brings me to my next point: Ownership.
Aligning with our drive for sustainability, farmers should not become dependent on our support. We therefore pay attention to shifting more and more responsibility to the farming communities, enabling them to take care of more activities within the Program themselves. An example of this is in the elements of our new training on integrated soil fertility management (IFSM), which are built on the principle of the participatory learning action approach and research (PLAR). Demonstration plots, farmer field schools, field days, rural workshops and the development of community (soil) action plans all foster an environment that encourages farmers to exchange experiences, best practices, and lessons learnt. During my visit, it was encouraging to see that the farmers were eager to play a part in the sessions – and that women were also very active in driving the process.
It is this sense of ownership that keeps me believing in a better future for cocoa farmers in Ghana, and I am already excited to see more of that during my next visit.