Which approaches and theories of change can businesses apply in pursuit of living income? How are their effects on the ground at farmer and cooperative level?
The cocoa supply chain is characterized by extreme inequality in terms of power and risks between the producers, that is small scale farmers, and the cocoa/chocolate industry that buys and transforms this product. The fact that cocoa farmers consistently earn less than a living income is one of the key drivers of child labour, uncontrolled agricultural expansion, and deforestation. Several actors in the cocoa sector are experimenting in different ways with approaches that aim to raise farm gate prices. The knowledge sharing about these initiatives is still very limited and clear insight in the modalities applied in these strategies and their positive and adverse effects is lacking. The goal of the study is to increase insight in the different approaches and theories of change which businesses can and are applying in pursuit of living income, and to increase our understanding of their effects on the ground at farmer and cooperative level. The study will at the same time be a learning opportunity for the entire Belgian chocolate sector that has committed to sustainable chocolate, including a living income for cocoa farmers by 2030.
  • Voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • Sustainability certification schemes
  • Market-concentration in the cocoa supply chain
  • Government export bodies
  • Producer country’s export policy
  • Producer country’s social protection policies
  • EU deforestation policies
  • EU trade policy
The cocoa supply chain is characterised by extreme inequality in terms of power and risks between the producers (small scale farmers) and the cocoa/chocolate industry that buys and transforms this product.
The central concept of research will be the Anker methodology for calculating living income. See here. This methodology has now been used to estimate living wage for over 30 locations globally with strong uptake and interest among both local and international stakeholders.
  • Desktop study and where possible stakeholder interviews to reconstruct theories of change (ToCs) implied in currently implemented business initiatives and programs aimed at raising farm gate prices as a strategy to allow farmers to reach a living income. Producing data on existing ToCs.
  • Participatory qualitative research including interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders (farmers, cooperatives, local government, key chain actors) to investigate and validate different hypotheses, the ToCs present in these approaches and to map their effects.
  • Participatory surveys to compile firsthand testimonies of farmers and families who have been involved in a scheme that raises farm gate prices as well as data on income.
Paying higher (guaranteed) prices to farmers is often touted as an essential strategy in order to respect human rights of small-scale farmers and to set up a partnership for sustainable food production. However, there are very few experiences, and the existing experiences are little documented. This study aims to identify the factors that allow for a successful strategy. Inside the cocoa sector there is a wide understanding that living income and sustainable production models are impossible if companies do not pay higher farm gate prices. This study should allow a wide array of stakeholders to learn from experience in achieving higher farm gate prices while avoiding adverse effects in their sustainable trade policy. Being one of the driving forces of the VOICE-Network, a global civil society coalition for sustainable cocoa, Oxfam-Belgium aims to include the critical input and feedback of some of the important thought leaders and campaigners around cocoa worldwide.

Case Study Leader

Oxfam Wereldwinkels

SDG's Addressed


Geographical Focus and Scale

  Côte d’Ivoire

Product and market focus

Cocoa, international

Key stakeholders

  • Farmers, representatives of cooperatives and representatives of businesses that have set up a strategy to raise farm gate prices and/or that are involved in different sustainability schemes.
  • In the centre are cocoa farmers that Oxfam-Belgium has partnered with in order to set up their own living-income project.
  • VOICE-Network, a global civil society coalition for sustainable cocoa.
  • Living Income Community of Practice, a knowledge sharing hub between companies, CSO’s and knowledge institutions.