Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 March 2023:
International Finance Corporation (IFC) last week brought together local and international experts from Sierra Leone’s cocoa sector for a two-day workshop, to examine the business potential of the sector and discuss how IFC can work with existing stakeholders to unlock opportunities for sustainable growth.
Discussions covered productivity, certification and traceability and improving the role of cooperatives, and concluded with a set of actionable recommendations.
“Harnessing the potential of the sector will depend on the active participation of both public and private institutions, through increased investment and a supportive, coordinated policy and regulatory environment,” said Mr. Kalim Shah, IFC Senior Country Manager for Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, who opened the workshop.
“IFC has assigned a dedicated team to help understand the cocoa ecosystem in Sierra Leone and find opportunities for IFC’s interventions with a priority to support, along with other stakeholders, increased cocoa productivity and quality, improved commercialization and value addition; and an improved policy and regulatory environment,” he added.
Participants also heard from Dr. Teresa Teneh Dick, Deputy Minister of Agriculture who summarised the Government of Sierra Leone’s current support for the cocoa sector and plans for the future.
She said that the government’s recently developed cocoa policy is intended to bridge the gap between the sector’s present performance and its potential: “It provides a strategic framework to enhance the long-term development of the sector through investments into the expansion of production, improved management practices and international competitiveness. The policy reveals that there is potential for transforming the sector into an economically viable industry with investment opportunities that need to be planned and developed.”
Emmanuel Kojo, Chief Director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MIT) confirmed the Ministry’s readiness to work with IFC, particularly on boosting productivity and the effectiveness of cooperatives.
Key international private sector players, who spoke about major trends in the industry, included – Andrew Brooks, SVP, Head of Cocoa Sustainability of Olam Food—a major food and agri-business company, operating in 60 countries; Nicolas Mounard, VP Sustainability & Farming at Barry Callebaut— a cocoa processor and chocolate manufacturer; and Sergio Codonyer, Managing Director, Organic Africa Chocolate.
The workshop concluded with focussed discussions on the sector’s challenges, with actionable recommendations for change. Some of the main recommendations emerging from the discussions include:
- Improving the governance of cooperatives through capacity building as well as finalising the new national policy on cooperatives and creating an independent cooperative certification body. In addition, supporting access to finance by creating a collateral registrar, introducing a credit line for the agriculture sector and creating a cooperative bank with competitive interest rates.
- Improving productivity and yield, by using research and demonstration plots to train farmers, as well as enforcing implementation of the cocoa policy and encouraging private sector led agricultural extension services.
- Ensuring accurate certification and traceability by introducing software for remote areas which can work off-line, investing in an accredited lab and coordinating testing through one organisation, as well as revising relevant regulation and training certifiers within Sierra Leone.
IFC said it will build on stakeholder recommendations from the workshop to produce a roadmap for its engagement in the sector.