Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The Rainforest Alliance

How can The Rainforest Alliance provide better guidance to certificate holders on how to better target (certification) training to specific learning needs of different types of farmers?

Sabine Luning

The Rainforest Alliance (RA) is an international nonprofit organization working to build a future in which nature is protected and biodiversity flourishes, where farmers, workers, and communities prosper, and where sustainable land use and responsible business practices are the norms.

In January 2018, the Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ, a global program, and label for sustainable farming. Training farmers in good agricultural, social practices and (group) management practices is an important intervention strategy of the joint program. The adoption of good practices by farmers, and the support and rewarding those practices with premium, training, services, and certification are key components of the intervention strategy.

This research will focus on the UTZ cocoa program in Ghana. UTZ counts 45 cocoa certificate holders (= certified entities) in Ghana, most of which are trader-led groups and a few cooperatives. These certificate holders have in total approx. 130.000 members (cocoa farmers), of which 70% is male and 30% is female.

RA wants to provide better guidance to certificate holders on how to better target (certification) training to specific learning needs of different types of farmers. “Certification training” refers to training offered to farmers as part of the process of becoming RA certified. Farmers differ in many respects, e.g. age, educational level, farm size, agroecological conditions, household composition, farm size, tenure type, etc.

The sort of research questions that RA would like to gain insights on can be tackled separately or jointly, by one to three students:

  1. To what extent do female members and female cocoa farmers have different learning needs and preferences than male cocoa members and farmers? (Distinguish between female heads of households who are co-op members and female farmers who are not formally a group member).
  2. How do female members and farmers usually learn about better cocoa farming practices? What is the relative importance of formal (e.g. training) and informal (e.g use of media, mobile technology, peer-to-peer) learning?
  3. To what extent do training (“as designed” and “as delivered”) cater to the specific needs and preferences of female cocoa members and farmers? What are the most important enabling and disabling conditions for them to attend training and to actually learn in those settings? What factors keep women from absorbing new information and what factors stimulate them to accept and use new information? This includes social/cultural factors and the way training and other learning events are designed and implemented.
  4. How can (certification) training be better tailored to the specific needs of female members and cocoa farmers?
  5. Which cultural and social values, beliefs and norms enable or pose obstacles to female cocoa members and farmers participating in and benefitting from training and other learning opportunities? What role do community leaders, church leaders, teachers, male relatives, and female role models play in creating more and better learning opportunities for these women?
  6. How can government policies and traditional laws enhance the learning opportunities for female members and cocoa farmers?

A more elaborate research project description can be obtained from Sabine Luning: sluning@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

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