Pouring blessings

We’ve been very quiet for the past month and a half. Today we can reveal the cause of our silence. But first, we need to reflect on some events that we are happy to celebrate.

1PM on December 2, 2021. Chief Bilou with village elders

First, we were honoured to receive Chief Bilou of Bindalima at our site on the 2nd of December. During the blessing ceremony, he, together with the local elders, blessed not only the construction, but also the intentions of our company. In accordance with local custom, they first ground up the alligator pepper and handed it around for everyone to eat. The pungent spice is highly prised and often used in birth ceremonies. The pungent heat brings fire and energy to the system.

They then poured wine and beer on the foundations as a blessing.

2PM 14 January 2022.

And the blessings have worked. On the 22nd of December, our consortium received the official notification that we won the bid to design Cameroon’s new national cocoa traceability system!

The ministry and Cameroon’s national cocoa and coffee board are looking for a leapfrog solution to embed traceability in a novel, holistic way. Our focus on starting with deep farmer insights really set the proposal apart. Funded by the dutch sustainable trade initiative (IDH), we’ll conduct an initial 3-month design phase.

In the briefing call with the minister, he emphasised two specific aspects. The first was the importance of designing from the field. No white-shirt and airconditioned office solutions. He made it very clear that the reality of farmers and their day to day challenges should set the scene of our learning journey and solution map.

A busy Christmas: Inception report submitted 29 December 2021

The second area of focus was a clear alignment with the sustainability goals contained in the new EU regulations. Cameroon has long sought to differentiate itself through adherence to agroforestry practices and fairer conditions for farmers. As the EU moves towards rewarding such behaviour in the supply-chain, we need to ensure that Cameroonian farmers can be recognised and rewarded for their efforts.

Starting with fieldwork around the Ntui cocoa growing area, we’ll get new insights from the farmers about what traceability means to them and how a new system might affect their lives.

In parallel, we’ll use the newly registered URL: cocoa-traceability.com to open a public debate and conduct surveys with industry players.

Who is on the team?

Under the title “The Transparent Collective-voice Consortium”, we have woven together a mix of deep industry experience and fresh innovation perspective. Long established local relationships with international, policy directing experience.

When Augustine and I launched the COOKO idea in April, one of the first people we spoke to was Patrick Stoop from C-lever.org. As the primary author of “Technical Brief on Cocoa Traceability in West and Central Africa: Overview and recommendations for enhanced cocoa traceability in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon,” he was ideally situated to provide feedback on our solution.

Since then, Patrick’s work has inspired us immensely. We’ve been looking forward to this project as an opportunity to finally work together on building and designing the vision we aspire to.

Verina was introduced to us as the ground-truthing expert who unravels current paradigms on value chains. Living in Cameroon, she spends most of her time directly in the field to understand how value chains for cocoa and forest products work, especially power relationships and community benefits.

Her deep local knowledge linked with the international track record of Wageningen University’s work on sustainability, provide Verina with powerful lens to amplify the farmers’ and local community voices.

Our consortium can also rely on our relationships with our tech partner PI Labs and flutterwave to provide up-to-date international perspectives on technical potentials. Rounding out the team with Impact Week’s network and experience in delivering design thinking/co-creation workshops in West Africa.

This is an unusual mix, but then again, it is an extraordinary challenge.

Sign up at yes@cocoa-traceability.com (or on the project website www.cocoa-traceability.com) to stay in the loop and receive updates.

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