Improving access to sustainability certification in the cocoa sector

Project description

Title: Certification capacity enhancement
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria
Overall term: 2010 to 2012


The social and environmental sustainability of production has become increasingly important for the development of the cocoa sector in West Africa. Partly because of reports about child labour on the region's cocoa plantations, the chocolate industry has been moved to seek changes.

The rapid growth in consumer demand for socially and environmentally sustainable chocolate and cocoa products has inspired a number of new initiatives. These includes commitments by cocoa importers and chocolate manufacturers to purchase greater amounts, or even 100 % of their raw cocoa from sustainable production, and to ensure that these sources are certified as sustainable.

In recent years, many private sector initiatives have started with the purpose of improving the living conditions of cocoa producers and their families. The growing market for sustainably produced and certified cocoa in Europe and the US provides an opportunity for many farmers in West Africa to improve their livelihoods, provided they can gain access to these new markets.


The living conditions of smallholder farmers have improved due to the promotion of sustainable, productive cocoa cultivation and easier access the new markets.


The Certification Capacity Enhancement project (CCE) is supporting the sustainable production of cocoa by smallholder farmers in West Africa by promoting cooperation between standards initiatives, private enterprises and development organisations. The project will provide training for the cocoa producers to improve their agricultural practices and meet the requirements of the three main standards initiatives in the cocoa sector – Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance und UTZ Certified – and to achieve certification by them. The guidelines of these initiatives include minimum standards for environmentally sound cocoa cultivation, for handling agro-chemicals responsibly, for protecting biodiversity, and for ensuring socially acceptable conditions, such as fair pay and an end to child labour.

During its pilot phase, the project is working closely with the standards initiatives to develop a collective training curriculum that complies with the requirements of all three initiatives. This will allow all future training measures for certification according to one or several of the standards to use the same curriculum. Training will therefore become easier for the farmers, with lower transaction costs for certification; access to the market for sustainably produced cocoa will also become easier. A number of private companies, including some major cocoa importers and chocolate manufacturers, are running pilot projects to test the practicality and the effects of the collective training concept.

The pilot phase will be followed by a second phase in which the training activities are expanded and a service centre set up, offering extension services and information about certification to companies, standards initiatives, donor organisations and producer groups.

Results achieved so far

A unique partnership has been created between the competing standards initiatives. This has clearly improved the access of West African producers to the rapidly growing markets for sustainably produced cocoa.

Ghana. Women sorting cocoa beans on a drying table. © GIZ

Collaboration has also started with national organisations, such as the Ghanaian state-owned cocoa marketing board, COCOBOD. These partnerships will be used to integrate the CCE certification curriculum into the national extension programmes. Thus the support for environmentally and socially sustainable cocoa production will be secured even after the project ends. Involving the private sector will place the approach on a broad and practice-oriented footing.