A sustainable union in Ivory Coast: Ecookim
Alterfin financed the Ecookim organisation in Ivory Coast for the first time in 2011. Back then, this union comprised seven cooperatives with over 3,000 producers.
Since it was set up in 2004, Ecookim has welcomed new cooperatives active in the cocoa, coffee and cashew nut sectors, reaching a total of 23 member cooperatives in 2014. Over 10,000 producers now benefit from the support of Ecookim.
Ecookim’s main task is to market and export cocoa beans; it does this with a view to increasing farmers’ income and improving the position of small-scale producers in the cocoa sector. The organisation groups its purchases of inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, bags, etc.) and services (transport, processing plant, etc.).
Ecookim also provides operational support for the cooperatives and offers producers technical assistance. This is reflected in a clearly defined cooperative structure (comprising a Board of Directors, a manager and an accountant) and its members are given training.
Ecookim General Manager Mamadou Bamba tells us: “For the small cooperatives, one big advantage of working with us is that they no longer have to worry about selling their cocoa beans on the market. We take care of that, without any other intermediaries.”
Fair trade at the service of producers
Ecookim went ‘fair trade’ in 2010. It has helped its members obtain a fair trade label (FLO, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance) and over three-quarters of the most recent harvest was sold on certified markets. Thanks to these labels, producers receive premiums in addition to the current minimum price on the international market.
The premiums received in 2014 (over EUR 1,500,000) are to be used, among other things, to finance the geolocation of small-scale farmers, provide technical assistance for producers and establish a packaging and storage unit.
The Alterfin factor
In the past, Ecookim depended chiefly on financing from local buyers, putting the organisation in a weaker bargaining position.
Mr Bamba recalls the early days of Ecookim and appreciates the present all the more as a result: “Since 2011, thanks to financing from Alterfin and Fefisol, Ecookim has been able to make a lot of its sales without depending on local buyers. Today, most of the beans are sold under better conditions on the export market.”
In 2011, Alterfin was Ecookim’s first international financier. Since then, Ecookim has remained a partner and its credit line has been renewed and increased every year.
With these loans, Alterfin wishes to continue to support Ecookim and help it achieve its goal of further developing its activities, thereby contributing towards improving the lives of thousands of small-scale farmers in Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer, accounting for almost 40% of world production. The cocoa is produced almost exclusively by smallholders and over a million families in the country depend on income from cocoa.
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