21 January 2021

Five ways Income Generating Activities can benefit cocoa communities

Women from the community of Mpaem started bead making as an income generating activity

Supporting the development of Income Generating Activities (IGAs), which provide different and additional ways to earn money, is one way to support cocoa communities. When used as part of a wider package of interventions they can help to boost farmer resilience, empower women, and increase child protection. With our partners, the International Cocoa Initiative supports cocoa farming households set up IGAs through community development and as part of responsible supply chain management through the implementation of Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems. Here we explore five benefits that IGAs can bring to cocoa-growing communities.

Empowering women in cocoa communities

IGAs are often targeted at women in cocoa-growing communities to help empower them and tackle gender issues. First, groups of women work together to generate ideas about the sort of business they would like to start. ICI supports them to do a market analysis to ensure there is a demand for products or services in their communities and to develop a business plan. When required, women are also offered literacy and numeracy classes to help them run their new business effectively. Pokua, from Pakyi in Ghana, received assistance to start up a pepper farm. With the proceeds from the sale of her crop she decided to invest in clothes to sell in her community. Now, she is earning money from her new crop and plans to expand her clothing business by opening up a small shop. “My life has definitely improved,” she explains. “Now, my husband and I can hire the services of as many adult labourers as we need to help us work on the farm. Also, we now have money saved which was not the case before 2017.”

Improving children’s welfare

Poverty is one of the root causes of child labour. Therefore, improving farmer and household livelihoods can be one route to increasing child protection. For example, some farming families may not be able to afford to send their children to school nor can they provide everything that is needed for a child to stay in school, such as books, school uniform or shoes. With additional income from alternative sources, farming families can put money towards their children’s education. This additional income can also improve the household’s situation in general, with the potential to have a positive on children’s welfare. Alice, a cocoa farmer from Mehame in Ghana, is one example. She was taught how to make soap alongside other women in her community and also started a maize farm. She invested some of the money in her eldest son’s education: “This enabled him to take part in the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). He was able to graduate with his friends.”

Boosting resilience against income shocks

Research has shown that when farmers are dependent on cocoa alone it can leave them vulnerable to income shocks (such as changes in price, adverse weather, or crop disease). This can in turn increase the risk of child labour as children may be called upon to work on the farm to help make up the shortfall in income. By supporting the development of alternative sources of income, particularly those that do not involve agriculture, households have access to income throughout the year. This can improve their resilience in the face of unexpected shocks. Activities that have proven to be successful include soap making, bead making, the rental of solar panels for phone charging, and tricycle rentals (see an external evaluation of ICI’s Community Development Programme for more details). With a greater diversity of income through these activities, farmers are in a better position to weather shocks and thus the risk of children becoming involved in child labour in difficult periods can be reduced. Find out how beekeeping is helping to improve farmers’ resilience in Ghana.

Bringing community members together

IGAs can be implemented at the household level, but they can be also be much broader in scope and benefit whole communities. They can allow community members to pool resources and time, working together for common benefit. Rice farming, for instance, is labour intensive, so instead of one farmer managing their own farm, they can come together and work the plots collectively, freeing up time for everyone to carry out other tasks, such as work on their cocoa farms. This communal cohesion is important.

Women from the community of Nyinkyiso benefited in this way. Before an IGA based on rice farming began each woman used to work their farm individually, says Prince Opoku, a Municipal Crops Officer with Ghana’s Department of Agriculture. He worked with ICI to train a women’s group on best practices. This allowed women in the community to collectively move from subsistence to commercial farming, continues Esi Fati, a member of the IGA. “The rice cultivation has given us extra income to take care of our children,” she explains. One year later, the women’s group won an award for Best Farmer-Based Organisation in their district. Find out more here.

Linking IGAs to other support groups

The impact of IGAs can be strengthened when tied to other forms of support, such as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). ICI supports women to set up these groups. Put simply, they work as a rural bank, allowing women to make contributions and, in time, take out small loans that can be invested into their businesses or IGAs. “The advantage of the VSLA is that after a long period of contributing, and since nearly all of us are shopkeepers, we can take out loans to strengthen our businesses,” explained Marie Solange, a member of a VSLA from the community of Zougounou, in Côte d’Ivoire. Women from the community of Blédoukangakro in Cote d’Ivoire also used a loan from their VSLA to grow cassava. After selling it, they used some of their proceeds to support their local school, further benefitting the community. Find out more about VSLAs here.


This article is part of a series highlighting what works to tackle child labour (more information here). At ICI we are working with our partners and the wider cocoa sector to ensure that these activities are scaled up as part of child protection systems to reach all those in need. Find out more in our 2021-2026 strategy.

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