A case study of the Cocoa Life (CL) partnership in Ghana
Partnerships between state actors, private companies and civil society organisation are increasingly being promoted as new organisational models with the capacity to solve complex problems related to global value chains (GVCs). Nevertheless, much ambiguity remains around the benefits of such partnerships to smallholder farmers in developing countries. This thesis seeks to add new insights into this field of study by examining a partnership in the GVC for cocoa. Through a case study of the Cocoa Life (CL) partnership in Ghana, the thesis explores and explains the partnership’s capacity to influence the upgrading possibilities of Ghanaian smallholder cocoa famers in the GVC.
The study combines insights from GVC analysis with literature on partnerships to argue that the CL partnership has improved the smallholder farmers’ capacity to comply with increasing GVC requirements and overcome constraints in the institutional environment. Through the establishment of farmer co-operatives and stronger business ties with international chocolate companies, the smallholder farmers have improved their access to knowledge, new technologies and high yielding inputs. As a result, the smallholders, who are part of the CL program in Ghana, have been able to adhere to improved agronomic practices and become Fairtrade certified. Hereby, the partnership has increased the Ghanaian smallholder farmers’ productivity and incomes from cocoa and enhanced their process, product and volume upgrading possibilities in the GVC for cocoa.
The case study shows that the partnership in the GVC for cocoa has changed cocoa production practices, augmented the smallholder cocoa farmers’ benefits from GVC participation and reduced their exposure to risks. Yet, the study remains sceptical about the partnership’s capacity to achieve broader development goals in Ghana. Case findings show that the influence of the CL partnership is confined to a relatively small group of cocoa farmers in Ghana and that the partnership initiatives have not benefited the cocoa farmers who are disconnected from the CL program. The case study also finds that the lead firm uses the partnership initiatives to enforce private standards along the GVC for cocoa to dictate the terms of participation for smallholder farmers and monitor its sourcing practices. With these findings, the study adds further insights into the capacity of partnerships to address social, environmental and economic problems in GVCs and argues that partnership initiatives can be important initiators of change in agricultural GVCs but also serve as mechanisms to further corporate interests.