Sustainable Smallholder Agribusiness in Western and Central Africa

Programme description

Title: Sustainable smallholder agri-business in Western and Central Africa
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo
Lead executing agency: Ghana: Ghana Cocoa Board; Côte d'Ivoire: Ministry of Agriculture; Nigeria: National Planning Commission; Cameroon: Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development; Togo: Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries
Overall term: 2014 to 2018

Westafrica. Female Farmer Business School student © GIZ


Cocoa is one of the most important agricultural products and sources of foreign currency in Western and Central Africa. The region accounts for more than 70 per cent of the worldwide cocoa production. Cocoa is mainly grown by smallholders on plots of land of up to two hectares in size, with a total cultivation area of five to six million hectares. This ‘brown gold’ is the most important source of income for over two million smallholders and their families. Additional income is generally earned from food production.

The yields for cocoa and food crops are, however, low. On average, the families of small-scale cocoa farmers have to make do with less than two US dollars per person per day. Many cocoa producers lack the financial resources, technical knowledge and in particular the entrepreneurial skills to use modern technologies and expanding agricultural markets to boost their income. The high dependence on cocoa production as a source of income coupled with highly fluctuating prices on the world market lead to impoverishment, malnutrition and social problems such as child labour.


Western and Central African smallholders have sustainably improved their income and food supply from diversified production.

Westafrica. One-fourth of Farmer Business School Graduates are women © GIZ


The project supports public and private extension services in providing business training for 350,000 smallholders in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon. During Farmer Business School training (FBS), they learn how to better plan cocoa and food production, about the costs associated with improved production techniques, and how they can increase yields and incomes through targeted investment.

The project cooperates with agricultural trade companies and microfinance institutions, which provide the farmers with technical advice and training, market information and financial services. They also offer advisory services and training on food production and healthy diets. These advisory services are provided at business service centres. Lessons learned from the project are being made available to other interested projects and institutions via regional platforms such as the pan-African Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


In cooperation with 20 local partners, the project has developed the Farmer Business Schools’ training programme to strengthen entrepreneurial skills. 440 trainers and supervisors have been specifically trained to organise the FBS programme. Since March 2010, they have trained over 230,000 farmers, more than a quarter of whom are women. The business service centres in Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon have served over 36,000 farmers since they opened in 2011.

FBS graduates plan their production, record their income and expenses as well as the use of agricultural inputs and labour, and can thus assess their income and profits. On this basis, they can make targeted investments in better production processes. 70 to 99 per cent of the farmers polled have increased cocoa and other crop yields, such as maize, by between 50 and 100 per cent. More than 60 per cent have opened accounts with rural banks, and their savings will serve as collateral for new loans. Almost a third of these new banking customers have already been granted loans for cocoa and food production.

West- and Central Africa. Cacao-Farmers © GIZ

A third of the FBS trained smallholders have joined existing producer cooperatives in order to improve their position in the market, and almost half of FBS graduates have formed new producer cooperatives. Annual household incomes from agricultural production have risen: the recorded increases lie between EUR 160 and EUR 756. Incomes from non-cocoa products, primarily food production, have more than quadrupled, with recorded increases of between EUR 660 and EUR 830. With this additional income, the small businesses are better able to cope with fluctuations in cocoa prices and yields. The total income effects for Western and Central African smallholders are estimated to be EUR 12.5 million. The FBS graduates also confirm that their families' diet has improved both in terms of quantity and quality.