CHICAGO — Sustainability programs set up to support cocoa farmers in West Africa should work more closely together to tackle farmer poverty, according to a study released May 19 by a partnership between the Fairtrade Foundation and Mondelez International, Inc.’s Cocoa Life.

The “Cocoa Sustainable Livelihoods Landscape Study” examined what actions are needed to secure sustainable livelihoods for cocoa growers and communities. It may be found here. The report revealed repetition in multiple sustainability programs seem to be assisting some farmers while as many as 1.69 million farmers might not be receiving any assistance.

The Ivory Coast and Ghana combined produce 60% of the world’s cocoa. Cocoa supports about 2 million farmers in the region. The average farmer lives on $1.50 or less per day.

“We believe that a sustainable cocoa supply begins with empowered cocoa farmers,” said Cathy Pieters, program director for Cocoa Life, a cocoa sustainability program. “However, as a sector all actors need to continue to work together to make this possible. Only by holding each other accountable in addressing the report’s findings can we hope to bring about change for cocoa farmers in the years to come — and in doing so lead transformation of the cocoa sector.”

The report identified 92 sustainable livelihoods initiatives in the Ivory Coast and Ghana that are taking on the issues of poverty, child labor and deforestation. Companies involved include Cargill, Olam International, Barry Callebaut, Mars, Inc., the Ferrero Group, the Hershey Co. and Mondelez. Certifiers Utz and Fairtrade also are active in cocoa sustainability efforts.

The number of farmers reported to be targeted across all sustainable initiatives exceeds the estimated number of cocoa farmers in the region by almost 800,000. Since sustainable initiatives tend to target geographic areas with the highest quantities and quality of cocoa, the numbers indicate that some farmers must be benefiting from multiple sustainable initiatives. Meanwhile, as many as 1.69 million farmers could be left out and not part of any organized farmer cooperatives.

Initiatives must reach different groups of farmers and move beyond those farmers ready to professionalize, according to the report, which added youth, sharecroppers and laborers should be targeted.

The sustainability initiatives could better reflect farmers’ priorities, too. The report recommends the initiatives move beyond plans focused solely on increasing productivity and incomes. One example would be addressing a systemic lack of formal and longer-term contracts. The gains that productivity increases bring to farmers are undermined by uncertainty about who will buy the farmers’ cocoa.

The research sought the views of farmers and found some alignment between the priorities of those who run the programs and the farmers who participate. Both groups prioritize increasing incomes. The sustainability programs, however, could do a better job of addressing farmers’ immediate priorities, which include feeding their families and community needs like wells, solar energy, roads, schools and health centers.

While farmers said they saw the need for a focus on climate change and forest preservation, they placed greater importance on immediate needs.

Mondelez commissioned the study. The Fairtrade Foundation designed and managed it. The Fairtrade Foundation, an independent certification body and non-governmental organization, licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on more than 5,000 products that meet its social, economic and environmental standards.