Project Awale is a two-year initiative funded by Cargill to increase and diversify the income of cocoa farming households in center-western Côte d’Ivoire by facilitating younger generations and women to develop strategic, financial, and business management skills needed to successfully build a safety net that is not solely reliant on a single income stream from cocoa.
In Côte d’Ivoire, nearly one million farmers grow cocoa and generate profits to support another five million people, which means that approximately one-fifth of the country’s population is reliant on farming cocoa as its primary source of income. Fluctuations in export prices, weather, and pests can significantly affect year-to-year success and productivity. Consequently, families struggle to earn enough wages: more than 50% of households live on $1.90 per day, which is far below the poverty line.
In response to this issue, efforts are turning to economically empower women and the youth from cocoa households to earn additional revenue from non-cocoa income-generating activities, such as farming other high-margin crops, cottage food processing, or non-agricultural microenterprises like food stands, retail shops, salons, tailoring shops, and other services. In most cases, individuals who start businesses have limited technical and entrepreneurial know-how, and consequently, their business endeavors are prevented from achieving their full potential.
Project AWALE is investing in the economic empowerment of women and the youth as the key to reducing poverty and promoting inclusive economic growth. When women and youth have the tools to succeed in alternative non-cocoa economic activities, families in Côte d’Ivoire will be able to not only achieve higher incomes but also become more resilient in their path to building sustainable pathways out of poverty.
The program focuses on improving the technical skills necessary for the strong performance of any income-generating activities and facilitating better access to capital and loans. TechnoServe is providing cocoa-reliant community members with training to increase their yields as well as one-on-one coaching and advisory sessions on other non-cocoa income generation projects, access to markets, business, and financial management skills. Project AWALE is partnering with microfinance institutions, a national women’s support fund, and facilitating the creation of village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) to improve access to credit and savings lines for participants of the project.
The AWALE program is also working with cooperatives to develop and pilot a strategic framework for support services for non-cocoa income-generating activities to ensure that the changes to the community last long after the completion of the project.
To date, project AWALE has supported 1,187 people directly and 9,530 indirectly; the project aims to directly benefit 1,400 individuals through 2023. Existing non-cocoa-related businesses have experienced an overall increase in sales of 56% after the program improved their access to finance and markets and provided training and advisory sessions.
The project has enabled the creation of 10 VSLAs to help beneficiaries save in a structured and meticulous way. Participants have been able to save $ 77,233.96 and invested $27,727.62 to either create new income-generating activities or improve an existing business.