Cote d’Ivoire: Incorporating drones into the UTZ Certification Process

In the Ivory Coast, the UTZ Certified programme has called upon drone technology to help in expediting the certification for farmers who wish to comply with sustainable forming protocols that are friendly to the environment and labour laws.

Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer of cocoa – the chief ingredient in chocolate production – and farming of this crop is dominated by close to four million small scale farmers, each of which own a cocoa farm no larger than two hectares. In the certification process, the notion of environment is important.

Following years of farmers chasing profits without properly caring for their farms, the environment and their crop; even going to the extent of employing child labour on the farms, crop yields and quality began to go down as the land lost its nutrients to degradation. Salvation came in 2008 when stakeholders along the cocoa industry chain in Ivory Coast adopted the UTZ Code of Conduct and agreed to became UTZ certified to enhance sustainability in the cocoa supply chain.

As part of the certification programme, cooperatives and are receiving training on farm management organisational capacity building. For instance, farmers must keep their crops at a reasonable distance from water sources and the traceability of production must be known, to eliminate frowned upon practices like child labour. Individual farmers and cooperatives found to be compliant with the UTZ Certification Process stand to receive a bonus paid by the final cocoa buyers (like Barry Callebault whose Ivorian branch SACO purchases certified beans) and half of this bonus is paid to farmers, while the other half returns to the cooperative in order to be able to offer services to its members.

To benefit from all this though, the farmers must go through the certification process, where they must provide several documents, including the mapping of the farming areas to check if they are compliant.

It is in providing these mapping services that drone entrepreneurs like Côte d’Ivoire Flyings Labs come in handy. According to the Repertory of Cooperative Societies report published by the Ministry of Agriculture of Côte d’Ivoire in 2017, the country has over a thousand agricultural cooperatives with over 4 million small and medium-sized farmers. For more than five years, several of these cooperatives, particularly those operating in cocoa, have been using certification processes to better sell the production of member farmers, helping them to improve their living conditions. Without drones stepping in, geometers would have walked thousands of acreages trying to map out farms all over the country.

With UAV mapping, however, the process has been faster and more precise, providing accurate plotting and precise imagery. As a result, the drone start-up has worked with a number of cooperatives in its pilot project aimed at identifying the benefits of using drones for mapping as part of the certification process. The actions carried out under this pilot project can then be replicated on a larger scale, generally to resolve land issues.

In January this year, team members from INVESTIV and Côte d’Ivoire Flying Labs presented their work on drone mapping to facilitate the certification process of cooperatives in the town of Biankouma. Participants in this workshop included members of COOP-CA COOPRAD – an agricultural cooperative comprising 1,291 cocoa farmers – other community members not related to the cooperative, and community leaders. The objective of the presentation was to explain the aerial mapping work and its benefits to the member farmers.

Ivory is the world leader in cocoa production

The pilot project for the use of drones in the certification process of cooperatives was done in partnership with KINEDEN, a significant player in the cocoa bean export industry that sources its supplies directly from agricultural cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. This project included aerial mapping of close to 9,500 producers’ plots through nine cooperatives for a total area of almost 30,000 hectares of land mapped.

Using the data collected by the drones, INVESTIV then identified each producer, centralised their data, and created an updatable database with online functionalities. The project was divided into two phases – a social and GPS data collection phase from December last year to February this year; and a phase of locality overflight by UAV from March to April 2020.

After the project completion, INVESTIV and Flying Labs called in participating farmers and cooperatives to share the details of their findings with them. They presented two types of drones with which the mapping work is carried out, explained their different capabilities, showed on-screen examples of plot maps belonging to various producers, answered questions from the audience, and also did flight demonstrations.


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