Coopérative des Producteurs Agricoles de Bondoukou (COPABO)
The farmers’ Cooperative COPABO was established in October 1999 and pools the individual farmers of Bondoukou, which is a department in the region of Zanzan in the Northeast of Ivory Coast. At present, the Cooperative counts approximately 1000 members.
While the South of the country, bordering on the Atlantic coast, is blessed with very fertile soil, the North has less advantageous climatic conditions for agriculture. As a means to prevent the Sahel from further desertification, the cashew tree was introduced into this area in the early 70s. Nowadays, the cashew nut is one of the few export products of the North and one of the few products with which this rural region has a chance to generate an income.
Since 2004 not only male farmers but also women were allowed to join the Cooperative. The women of Ivory Coast, who traditionally were responsible for food preparation and used to do all the daily chores communally, soon took over a leading part in the Cooperative.
It was their initiative to crack and sort the cashews themselves on the spot, so that this important part of the process could generate an additional source of income for them.
Although the processing of cashews has grown to be an essential part of the Cooperative, the organization of sustainable and cost-efficient structures turned out to be rather difficult. At various times the Cooperative was affected by political turmoil and had to close down their business either just during these periods or in some cases, completely.
However, the problems are also of a structural nature and affect the whole region of Western Africa. The current global export statistics show an internationally growing demand for raw nuts. For instance, India and Vietnam (the two world leading cashew producers and processors), source approximately three-quarters of their additional cashew purchases from countries in Western Africa.
Because the producers sell their raw, unprocessed cashews directly to foreign dealers, the factories in Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ivory Coast – with their extended capacities for processing cashew nuts – remain underused or in parts even completely closed during the season. This occurs despite the fact that the crop yields in these countries have risen considerably compared to previous years.
The FLO Fairtrade Cooperative has been certified since 2006 and in 2011 the nuts were labelled with the EU-organic certificate. The FLO fairtrade certification means additional premiums are paid which enable the Cooperative to survive in spite of the harsh political and economic conditions.