Big data is now helping Barry Callebaut improve its farmer support programs in typically low-tech environments such as cocoa farms.
The chocolate giant partnered with SAP in 2016 to develop a data management app called Katchilè. The app is now being used by farm coaches on the ground, enabling them to capture all kinds of data about the farmers, their financial stability, their farming techniques and the company’s impacts — in order to help Barry Callebaut design better support programs to improve farmer livelihoods. It’s also being used to combat child labor by capturing data such as the number of children in the family, distance to the closest school and how many children are enrolled.
We caught up with Nicko Debenham — Barry Callebaut’s VP Head of Sustainability, based in Zurich; and Savané Massogona — Monitoring and Evaluation Project Manager, based on the ground in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to learn more.
What problems is the Katchilè app designed to solve and how is it helping Barry Callebout solve them?
Nicko Debenham: Katchilè enables Barry Callebaut to know our farmers’ reality — their needs, their challenges; at farm and community levels — so that we can offer them tailor-made solutions on the road to increasing their livelihoods and helping them to make cocoa farming a profitable and professional business.
Katchilè is our custom-made, large-scale data collection solution. Barry Callebaut collects data around economic, agricultural and social parameters — these data sets then provide us with a full view upon which to recommend Farm Business Plans containing farm-based interventions, empowering farmers with the skills, approach and support to lift themselves out of poverty. Additionally, the data identifies the communities that need the most support in a heat-mapping system. so that we can target our activities most effectively and efficiently.
How did the partnership with SAP come about?
Debenham: SAP is the technical solution provider for Katchilè. They dedicated a team to work on the development of this program, which has since led to a spin-off of the solution called Rural Sourcing Management, enabling others to benefit from the cutting-edge technology and scale positive impact across farming communities.
Katchilè means “change” in the language of the Baoulé [natives of Côte d’Ivoire]. What changes has the app driven at the headquarters level of Barry Callebaut?
Debenham: Utilizing this app effectively has helped Barry Callebaut to change the way we implement sustainability programs at farm level. Instead of the previous one-size-fits-all approach of sustainability methodologies, we now have a better understanding of our supply chain and can customize solutions to what is needed in that region, in that community, and on that farm. This is exactly the approach we take with Cocoa Horizons-registered farmers in order to create impact and self-sustaining farming communities.
Additionally, the app enables us to better support our customers on dedicated special projects, providing a platform to measure KPIs and ensure their investments are having the intended impact.
Since child labor is a symptom of poverty, some people may wonder why reputable brands such as Barry Callebaut don’t simply pay more for cocoa. What can you say about this?
Debenham: Indeed, price can help — and this is another reason why sustainable cocoa is a positive choice, because it pays farmers a cash premium. One of our Forever Chocolate targets is to have 100 percent sustainable cocoa by 2025. In addition, regulated minimum prices in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are also supporting farmer income. However, price alone isn’t the answer. The other leverage we have is focusing on productivity, farm diversification and women’s income generation. If we significantly increase yield and diversity on farms, and enable more women to earn an income, cocoa-farming families will earn significantly more, enabling them to not just cross the poverty line, but to continue their growth into the future.
We support farmers to increase their productivity and lift themselves out of poverty. That is why we directly support farmers through investment of a part of our revenue in education; more sustainable, and higher yielding, production techniques; as well as financing programs in order to increase yields. We cannot achieve this by ourselves — we need to work with governments, NGOs, customers and suppliers to ensure that farmers can earn an equitable income, follow responsible labor and agricultural practices, safeguard the environment and provide for the needs of their families.
Who uses the Katchilè app in the field and how do they use it?
Savané Massogona: Our farm coaches on the ground in cocoa communities and the local sustainability managers who manage the coaches are using Katchilé in the field to complete farmer socio-economic surveys, track cocoa purchases, map farmers and more. It can be used on mobile devices, which makes it easy to manage in the field. And we are able to quickly make changes or add surveys from our offices Abidjan to be updated in real time in the field.
The app is able to capture all kinds of data about farmers and their communities. How does collecting this data ultimately help the farmers?
Massogona: The data we collect allows us to know our farmers better, which in turn allows us to evaluate and respond to their needs better.
Using data from our survey like farm size, age of cocoa trees, or number of dependents in the household allows us to make recommendations in the form of a Farm Business Plan that is specifically relevant to that farmer. When we understand the needs of farmers and communities better, we can more efficiently target programming towards the areas of greatest need.
What are some of the positive changes you have seen since rolling out the app?
Massogona: With Katchilé, we no longer need to use paper for data collection. This has reduced the time required to get the data to the office for analysis and the possibility of losing the data collection papers in transit. Data collection itself is also much faster on a phone app than on paper, saving our coaches a lot of time so they can focus on working directly with farmers.
Katchilé has also improved data quality. The logic built into the surveys ensures that the right type of data is entered, which means that we get more useable data, which leads to more meaningful programming. And importantly, it is impossible to collect data on a fictitious cocoa farmer, because all surveys need to be connected to our farmer register.
What further changes would you like to see to continue deepening its impacts?
Massogona: We want to continue adding activities onto Katchilé — like rolling all training attendance into the app and any additional data collection on special projects that may not fit into our standard surveys and data collection tools.
Continuing to build out this platform will help us become more efficient, reach more farmers and communities, and increase our impact on the ground in order to enable us to achieve our Forever Chocolate goals.