Complex problems often have elusive solutions, and finding them takes time, effort and persistence. Despite careful research and preparation, it is not always the obvious approach that works. Learning from failure is, therefore, an important aspect of our work – a culture that enables us to take calculated risks and, ultimately, drive real and lasting change in cocoa-growing communities.
For example, when ICI first set up bridging classes for out-of-school children through the TRECC programme, we found that pupils were dropping out. The reason soon became clear: the children were hungry and were struggling to concentrate, or needed to spend more time supporting their families. Attendance rates spiked after ICI set up school canteens providing one nutritious meal per day for bridging-class attendees, allowing pupils to complete the course and rejoin the formal education system.
Another example comes from ICI’s Income-Generating Activities (IGAs) for mothers. Initially, these were mostly of an agricultural nature, growing food or cash crops according to the stated preferences of the women’s groups. In Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, cassava farming was chosen for the IGA groups because inputs were inexpensive and the product was marketable. However, unforeseen communal land-access problems meant that the plots available for group IGAs were small, and the resulting income was inadequate when shared between 20 to 30 women. The groups nevertheless expressed their appreciation for these IGAs, since they contributed to the women’s empowerment and self-confidence and allowed them to acquire farming knowledge that they could replicate at home. We took the decision to shift to supporting women on their family plots by implementing Village Savings & Loan Groups (VSLAs). This enabled them to kick-start their individual activities through improved access to credit, which they could use to purchase farming inputs.