Family farming is critical to food security, health, livelihoods and natural resource management. In honor of the UN’s International Year of Family Farming, the Rainforest Alliance is shining the spotlight on family farmers in an ongoing series.
Today, we talk to Assande Alle Felix, a 56-year-old cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire, whose 15-acre (6-hectare) farm is part of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ COOPROYA cooperative. Felix is the father of ten–his youngest is just a year old and his oldest is 30.
How long has your family had the farm?
My family has had this farm a long time, over 30 years. I got this farm from my father when he died.
What does the farm mean to your family?
The great part of my family income comes from the cocoa farm. I have some food crops, but these are mostly for our own consumption. I also have 2.5 acres (one hectare) of rubber and a small coffee farm.
How does your family help out on the farm?
My wife helps me mainly during harvest season. She helps to do the pod collection and the cocoa bean drying. Sometimes she helps with the weeding, and she also does all the cooking. My two eldest boys also help me on the farm. Five of my children go to school in the town, and the other three are too young to help or go to school yet.
Why did you decide to get involved with the Rainforest Alliance?
I met with the president of the cooperative four years ago who explained the certification process. My first interest was the premium because for me it was a way to increase my money. Now, even though the premium is still very important, I appreciate the training that I have received on good farming practices. My farm looks better and I am harvesting more cocoa beans than before.
How has certification made a difference to your farm and your family?
Before certification, I used to wash my pesticide-spraying equipment in the river and I was not using protective clothing. Now, I know that it’s not good for my family. So I work with a spraying team, which is trained and have adequate equipment. I also have better yields because the cooperative trainers visit me and give me advice. And the premium also helps me to manage my family.
What are your hopes for the future for your farm and your family?
I want to get more money for my children and my wife. Cocoa work is very difficult and we are still living in difficult conditions. If I can grow more cocoa, earn a better price for my cocoa and more premiums, I think I can improve the life of my family.
More than five million smallholder cocoa farmers depend on the crop for their livelihood.The Rainforest Alliance has been working to strengthen the position of smallholder cocoa farmers since 2006—both on the land and in the marketplace—by training them to conserve natural resources, increase productivity and secure decent living and working conditions. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are audited annually against rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria that protect biodiversity and foster a culture of respect for workers and local communities.