During the summer of 2018, we were chosen by Salvaterra to conduct the evaluation of Équité 1,first edition of a programme supporting the development of Fair Trade in West Africa, and implemented between January 2016 and March 2019 in five countries (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Togo), for Burkina Faso and Togo.

Explanations and narrative

Two specificities of this programme followed by Fair Trade France (CEF) as contracting authority and on the field by Agronomists and Veterinarians Without Borders (AVSF) and FTA-WAN, financed by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the French Global Environmental Facility (FFEM), were to encourage the autonomy of producer organizations, which could present their own projects, and to articulate fair trade and agroecology.

In Burkina Faso and Mali, I visited the main cooperatives involved, which operated in the following sectors: shea butter, cashew nut, fruit (mainly dried mangoes), often diversifying their production and activity with sesame and Hibiscus sabdariffa for the bissap.

The final evaluation of the Équité 1 programme showed very positive results in terms of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. In concrete terms, the programme enabled producer organizations to improve their structure, and develop their technical and commercial capacities, thanks to targeted training provided by national operators. It also allowed them to invest in actions with high environmental and economic impacts.

Production of shea butter, a product increasingly appreciated in cosmetics by Burkinabe and Malian women, is an activity traditionally quite lengthy and energy-intensive, as it involves steps such as drying, the extraction of almonds, roasting and churning. The programme has allowed the coops to streamline this process and close its material and energy loops. The same is true, in a slightly shorter circuit, of the use of cashew shells for the extraction of almonds that are usually used as appetizers. The mango cooperatives were also able to use the compost produced from the damaged fruits.

Through the Équité programme, many producer organizations have taken a significant step forward and are now more ready to assert themselves in international markets, and also among their traditional buyers, even when labelled organic and fair trade. In most of the countries involved (Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo), a National Fair Trade Platform (PNCE) has been structured or strengthened to coordinate certain actions targeting producer organizations.

After a feasibility study for a second part of this programme, over five years, there is hardly any doubt regarding the added value of fair trade for a socially and environmentally sustainable development in West Africa!

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