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CLAP program gives cocoa farmers land ownership documents and peace of mind

October 28, 2022

Imagine pouring all your energy into running a small family business without having the paperwork to prove that you owned it. Every day, you work as hard as possible to try to make it a success, but the constant worry that it could be taken from you plagues your mind.

That’s the situation that many cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire face. Their livelihoods often depend on their ability to earn an income from cultivating trees that can take many years to flourish, and yet a significant percentage of them do not have documents to show that they have rights to the land they are working. This uncertainty can cause them not to invest in their farm operations, ultimately impacting their yields and future incomes.

The Côte d’Ivoire Land Partnership program is working to change that. CLAP is a partnership between high-quality field data solutions provider Meridia, the Ivorian government, the German Cooperation (implemented by GIZ GmbH), and cocoa industry companies like Cargill to help farmers gain clear land ownership documents – a process that can often be cumbersome and expensive. 

Started in 2019, CLAP aims to deliver more than 10,000 land documents to farmers by 2024, so they can confidently invest in their own businesses.

“Clear land ownership provides a strong incentive to farmers to reinvest, professionalize their operations and intensify production within existing farm boundaries instead of expanding into forests,” said Gerald N’Zouba, Cargill’s landscape coordinator in Côte d’Ivoire.

He went on to add: “We believe programs like CLAP – combined with other training resources that Cargill and our partners provide – can help farmers build a stronger future for themselves and a more vibrant cocoa sector overall.”

Piloting new connections

CLAP is currently in a pilot phase in the western region of Côte d’Ivoire, with the goal of delivering 1,000 documents as the partners test approaches and define scalable best practices.

In addition to providing funding, Cargill is playing a key role in the pilot phase by connecting Meridia and the implementing partners to our network of farmer cooperatives in the region. This bridge is essential as CLAP partners build trust with farmers and local community leaders.

“Land tenure is a sensitive subject for communities. For CLAP to be successful, all stakeholders must be on board”, said Valerie Cromer, Country Lead of Côte d’Ivoire at Meridia. “This is why Cargill, one of the leading cocoa actors in the Cavally area, is an important partner. They help our implementation team onboard cooperatives and their cocoa farmers on the program.”

Earlier this year, the first 130 land tenure documents were delivered to cocoa farmers as part of the CLAP pilot. The certificates covered over 580 hectares, with more than 40% of beneficiaries being women.

Broader benefits

In addition to providing peace of mind to farmers and helping them protect long-term income by incentivizing them to reinvest in their farms, CLAP also can help protect forests in line with Cargill’s sustainability commitment.

More clearly mapping farm boundaries and identifying who owns what makes deforestation occurring on protected land easier to detect. Farmers are more likely to intensify production within the boundaries of already established farms rather than spreading into new areas.

CLAP can also encourage them to think about that longer-term picture for environmental protection because they know they and their family will be running their cocoa farms far in the future. For instance, farmers are more likely to embrace agroforestry practices like planting shade trees, which positively impacts the natural environment.

“With this program, I feel like we are reaching one of the root causes of low yields for farmers, while also providing incentives for farmers to embrace agroforestry,” Gerald said.

Thanks to the CLAP program, and its strong partnership, land documentation offers land security to smallholders in Côte d'Ivoire now and for future generations.