This article was originally written for cocoasustainability.com
At Sourcemap, we make software that connects people across supply chains. That's why we partnered with Mars Chocolate on Vision for Change (V4C), a sweeping initiative to improve cocoa productivity and farmer livelihoods in Côte d’Ivoire. V4C is one element of the company’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, which is helping to secure the future of cocoa production by prioritizing the needs of farmers.
V4C includes multiple workstreams aimed at supplying better planting materials, training farmers in good agricultural practices, and investing in community-driven development projects across the Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire. By 2020, the project aims to reach 150,000 cocoa farmers. Sourcemap is providing the central dashboard for the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of each workstream. Do improved planting materials raise cocoa yields? Will farmer trainings lead to widespread adoption of good practices? How do community-driven projects impact farmer livelihoods? The M&E dashboard will help answer these questions by providing a shared platform for monitoring every intervention and evaluating their impact on the surrounding communities.
Last month, I had the chance to travel to Côte d'Ivoire with Shayna Harris and Andrew Pederson from Mars Chocolate, Don Seville from Sustainable Food Lab, and Kathelyne van den Berg from Akvo. We participated in a town hall meeting in the village of Kragui to learn how development projects are implemented by the residents themselves. Each village (localité) forms a committee that proposes interventions to improve social and economic livelihood, such as building a clinic or buying new farm equipment. The residents then raise a portion of the funds themselves (between 5 and 20%), often by going door-to-door. The national Coffee Cocoa Council and V4C contribute the rest.
After the meeting, we visited a school built by the residents of Kragui with help from V4C. It was a unique opportunity to witness the benefits of a community-driven approach to local development, and to learn about the process so that we could streamline it for villagers and the local government. Projects like the school are monitored on a monthly basis to ensure that they provide sustained benefit to the community. All of the updates will be available on the M&E dashboard, where the various projects can be evaluated in terms of their progress and how the funds are disbursed and applied.
By adopting a central, online platform for M&E, V4C is establishing a direct communication channel between cocoa-producing communities, government agencies, and multinationals including Mars. The dashboard provides real-time accounting, helping communities reach donors faster while creating long-term accountability for projects. This innovative approach to M&E points towards a new level of transparency in development: where citizens and communities can self-represent, and every stakeholder has direct visibility to projects on the ground. Now that’s a vision for change.