Participating in Sustainability Standard Systems - Barriers and success factors for smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana
Luijk, R.J. van
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Standard systems have been developed since the 1990s. They are a tool in Sustainable Supply Chain Management. A general assumption is that participation to supply chains that demand a certificate of a sustainability standard system is very difficult for smallholder producers in developing countries. While a considerable amount of literature is available regarding sustainability standards and smallholder producers, there is not much knowledge about the factors that influence participation to sustainability standard systems for smallholder producers. This research concerns an exploratory research, by means of on the spot participatory observation. This research has focused on the systemic requirements of sustainability standard systems. The limited resources and capacities (money, time, network, and information), were assumed to make participation to sustainability standard systems very difficult. By means of literature research, an overview and analysis was made of the systemic requirements of several sustainability standard systems. This analysis showed common practices of sustainability standard systems. Expert interviews provided information about the barriers and success factors in the process towards certification for a standard system. Field research has shown that the limited capacities and resources of smallholder farmers are limiting farmers’ opportunities to participate (autonomous) in sustainability standaard systems. Solving these limitations is not easy, and not realizable on the short term (think of for example illiteracy). In practice, standard systems have avoided this barrier for smallholders by creating a system of certification programmes. These programmes train farmers for a certain standard system, and lead them to certification. In such programmes, farmers receive all necessary information and support. This enables them, to become certified. This study shows that in the present situation, it is not the systemic requirements of standard systems, but the access to certification programmes that is the actual barrier for smallholder farmers to participation in a standard system. Without certification programmes, farmers do not succeed to acquire a certificate and thereby do not gain access to sustainable supply chains. The availability of certification programmes is the restraining factor in the participation of smallholders in sustainable supply chains. The results of this research can be used for developing of sustainability assessment systems. Due to the limited capacities of smallholders, and the different market system in Ghana, Western assessment methods (e.g. to have all supply chain actors use the assessment system, or self-assessment), do not function. Country and actor-specific characteristics should be carefully taken into account in the design of sustainability assessment systems. Increasing sustainability of smallholder farming practices requires a system that provides sufficient guidance to the farmers, or investments in farmer capacity building.