Solidaridad engages CSOs, farmers on cocoa & palm oil production

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Solidaridad, TrustAfrica Staffs and CSOs pose for photo

By Yusufu S. Bangura

Solidaridad Sierra Leone in collaboration with TrustAfrica Foundation has organized a-four -day training and capacity building workshop for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and farmers for sustainable cocoa and oil palm production in Sierra Leone.

The theme of the workshop was “Strengthening the advocacy capacity and voice for inclusive and sustainable supply chains and trade in cocoa and palm oil”

The four-day workshop started on Monday, 27th June, 2022, and would end on Thursday 30th June 2022, at Kenema district.

Speaking to journalists and CSOs, Programme Manager for Trust Africa, Bethule Nyamambi said TrustAfrica is a Pan-African organization that contributes to sustainable development initiatives by supporting diverse advocacy movements and advancing systemic change through collaboration with social movements, civil society, and feminist organizations.

She continued that they conducts their activities by convening dialogues, awarding grants, generating knowledge, strengthening institutions, and providing technical assistance for CSOs and farmers.

Madam Nyamambi said they were implementing a five-year programme from 2021 to 2025 in three countries, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire.

She said the workshop aims to support producers, workers, and Civil Society Organizations in influencing and shaping public discuss to improve the understanding of issues affecting palm oil and Cocoa in Sierra Leone, adding that the workshop would kick start the process of building a collaborative advocacy effort to facilitate capacity building for civil society and farmers in Sierra Leone.

Trust Africa Project Manager said the project’s goal is to contribute to inclusive and sustainable production and trade of Palm Oil and Cocoa in which decent working conditions, land rights, and forests are protected, and small-scale producers are fairly rewarded for the investments made to produce under sustainable conditions.

She said they were working with local civil society organizations including farmers associations, private and public sectors in the palm oil and cocoa sectors to advocate for inclusive dialogue amplify voices and accelerate disruptive business solutions and innovations.

She continued that in Sierra Leone, civil society, farmer cooperatives, women’s groups and other groups in palm oil and cocoa productions have critical stake in crafting and implementing inclusive policies that contribute to an enabling environment for their rights and interests.

“During the four-day workshop, we want to strengthen advocacy and policy influencing abilities of CSOs, for them to be able to advocate and ensure that there is inclusivity in dialogue when they meet with private and public sectors. We want to ensure that they have skills to amplify their voice where they need to speak up and they will be able to use tools that they need to amplify their voices. We are also working with CSOs to ensure that we have a clear advocacy action plan to address issues of land right and other areas,” she said.

In his own speech, Programme Coordinator for Solidaridad, Seth Kankam Noamah said farmers do not get the full price of commodities because of the intermediaries and unhealthy competition, adding that cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone suffer from lack of pricing and most of them do not have a living income because they have little access to financial resources to invest in cocoa.

He said in palm oil, the price of Fresh Fruit Bunches, raw material for palm oil mills fluctuates greatly throughout the sector because buyers and companies determine the price of the FFB without engaging the producers in the discussion. He added that there was no regulatory framework to guide crude palm oil prices and there was lack of timely access to information regarding the price.

Noamah said government needs to formulate policies to set standard prices for crude palm oil. He further said policies that were developed from top-to-bottom approach are not effectively implemented due to the lack of involvement of the local communities because smallholder farmers, whose livelihoods are affected and influenced by policies, were not properly consulted in policy formulation and decision making processes, the policy becomes ineffective.

“Solidaridad and partners through the RECLAIM Sustainability programme will use innovative approaches to strengthen producer groups, and CSOs, in the cocoa and oil palm supply chain and create or open the civic spaces for the voices of farmers, workers and citizens be heard in decision making,” he said.

Technical Advisor for Solidaridad, Andrew Kojo Morrison said the training was to support enhance the capacity of stakeholders including CSOs on palm oil and cocoa production, adding that the RECLAIM Sustainability programme would empower voices within the cocoa and palm oil sectors.

He said they found out that Eastern and Southern provinces have a lot of cocoa farmers, so that why they have engagement with CSOs in Kenema for them to understand their issues affecting farmers as there were number of issues affecting them from land access to limited skills, limited access to finance, trade issues, price and those are some of the issues the project want to resolve.

Speaking on behalf of CSOs, Mariama Jalloh from SEND Sierra Leone said they felt happy to be part of the training because in order for them to do their advocacy, they needed to be capacitated and during the training their minds have been to opportunities that they would use to advocate for farmers.