Key Working Areas – Swisscontact’s Methodological Footprint

Swisscontact programmes use an integrated markets approach, considering economic, social and environmental dimensions, to improve cocoa sector competitiveness. 
Input Supply Market Development

Millions of rural farmers do not have access to affordable agricultural inputs such as improved seeds and seedlings or fertilisers needed to increase farm productivity. Swisscontact supports the development of agricultural input supply chains.

This involves “productivity packages” consisting of improved planting material, fertilisers and crop protection, as well as extension services such as trainings, pruning on grafting, among others. With a pronounced emphasis on last mile delivery mechanisms, programme partners bring these services and inputs closer to the cocoa farmers.

Swisscontact programmes use an integrated markets approach, considering economic, social and environmental dimensions, to improve cocoa sector competitiveness. Key Performance Indicators integrated in Swisscontact programmes measure results related to eleven out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals within the three sustainability dimensions.

Development of Farm Productivity

Up to 40% of the cocoa crop is lost every year due to pests and diseases. To empower farmers with knowledge and skills, to make them more expert in their own field, Swisscontact has developed a specific, locally adaptable participatory training approach based on the Farmer Field School (FFS) methodology. Farmer Field Schools focus on training in Good Agricultural Practices, mainly in the following areas:


  • Sustainable cocoa production techniques, with a focus on productivity, climate-smart soil and shade management, including rehabilitation and replanting techniques, and integrated pest and disease management;
  • Harvest and post-harvest handling, with a focus on cocoa quality and prevention of crop losses;
  • Integrated farm management, taking into consideration the entire production system (livestock, human capital, business practices, waste and energy management, natural resource management etc.);
  • Safe social and environmental practices;
  • Human rights and child labour awareness;
  • Nursery management with a focus on improved planting material;
  • Central information dissemination for smallholder farmers.

The role of Swisscontact as facilitator is to create producer access to learning opportunities and to establish post-training activities that effectively improve agricultural practices. Key to the sustainability of these interventions is a change in the mindset among participating farmers which allows them to understand the pay-off of investments into their farms, both financially and timewise. From Swisscontact experiences, farmers who start to manage their farms like a small business achieve increased productivity and incomes.

Cocoa Quality Improvements

Swisscontact supports farmer organisations in the selection of cocoa varieties, trains farmers in harvesting practices, facilitates access to adequate post-harvest infrastructure and laboratories and transfers knowledge to farmers about related post-harvest handling techniques and quality control.

Price increases are already achievable through basic improvements, benefiting farmer income while at the same time guaranteeing buyers a consistent cocoa production quality. Top prices can be achieved when pre- and post-harvest management is tailored to specific client requirements and connected, where possible, to the denomination of origin for fine and flavour cocoa.

In Latin America, Swisscontact assists farmer organisations to develop local tasting capabilities and to set up adequate control mechanisms. Swisscontact faciliates quality contests and chocolate fairs to raise awareness among producers, regarding existing opportunities in niche markets. Through such exposure, products of selected cocoa producers get positioned in the gourmet chocolate industry at the local and international level.

Strengthening Farmer Organisations

Swisscontact supports the organisation of farmer groups, their competitiveness and their transition into sustainable market actors, based on a clear business vision and the development and implementation of business plans that provide real benefit for associated farmers. Capacity building for farmer organisations’ board members is complemented with the implementation of functioning tools such as appropriate procedures, standard contracts, easy to use forms and supporting software. Professional working organisations can serve as a showcase and initiate new ones, by example, promoting know-how and business acumen amongst farmers in different regions.

Access to Finance

Cocoa farmers often lack the capital to invest in their businesses, preventing them from reaching their full potential. Financial institutions typically are reluctant to offer credit and other offerings to smallholder farmers. To address these issues, Swisscontact trains selected financial institutions to properly assess the risks and to offer adequate financial products to cocoa farmers or farmer organisations.

On the farmers’ side, Swisscontact improves financial literacy and raises awareness regarding the importance of saving strategies for cocoa producers. This to have investment and risk capital available. Farmers learn how savings and credit works and gain the ability to manage financial resources effectively. Equally important, they gain an understanding of what a financial institution expects from them when providing credit, thus better managing their risks.

The Challenge of Certification

Swisscontact supports the introduction of traceability systems that provide important information of the farm’s location as well as its owner and the local community. Swisscontact, in collaboration with PT Koltiva, an Indonesian software start-up, developed CocoaTrace, a web- and Android based application. CocoaTrace is used to collect, evaluate and report relevant data. Such systems provide the basis for the design of an Internal Control System (ICS) for farmer organisations which is required for certification.

Accelerating the Diffusion and Adoption of Better Practices in Supply Networks

When asked the reason they did not yet adopt an improved method, cocoa farmers will often respond that they are waiting to see what their friends or neighbours do. That is the power of informal social networks in the spread of innovations. This is not unique to cocoa nor farming. Swisscontact reveals and understands these learning networks through a statistical tool called Farmer Network Analytics (FarmNetX). This is used by Swisscontact and several private sector partners to improve their farmer engagement strategies so to more smartly accelerate the diffusion of innovations in farmer networks.

Framework Conditions

Governments play an important role in shaping the conditions in which value chains operate, especially for export crops like cocoa. Swisscontact cooperates with local and national governments to help create a supportive regulatory environment and to establish facilitating relationships with the private sector. Swisscontact had developed the capacity to operate in the public-private dialogue that involves private sector partners, governments, donors, and farmers, to help further advance the goals of a sustainable cocoa supply chain.