As part of its Vision for Change program, Mars has been supporting Community-driven development activities in the Soubré region of western Côte d’Ivoire since 2011. For some communities involved since the beginning, it is time to take stock of the activity.
Since the beginning of 2014, members of the ICRAF (International Center for Research on Agroforestry) implementation team have been conducting “capitalization” meetings with representatives of the communities where the work is done. Capitalization refers to a learning review of activities in which participants give feedback on what has been accomplished within a program intervention.
Community development is the complementary component to the productivity work that makes Vision for Change a more holistic approach to farming and social development in the region. While the productivity work aims to significantly increase farmers’ yield and income over the coming years, it is the community work that will drive changes in labor practices, education and women’s engagement – all of which underpin the objective of making cocoa farming more professional and attractive to the next generation of farmers.
On March 10th, during a recent visit to Côte d’Ivoire and the Soubré area, I had the privilege of attending a capitalization workshop where 70 representatives from 21 communities came together to share their experiences related to the Vision for Change community development program. Facilitated by Georges Bredou and Coulibaly Lacina of ICRAF, the attendees constructively shared the successes, setbacks, opportunities and obstacles that they have identified during their experience with the program.
Successes that were noted included the building and remodeling of schools in a number of the villages and the installation of new pumps for the delivery of potable water in several others. Challenges that face the communities in further developing their skills in carrying out projects were identified as: the need to improve communication among the various ethnic and migrant groups that live within many of the communities and the need to have increased participation of women within the community committees that have been formed.
For me, the primary takeaways from the meeting was the obvious energy that the participants brought to the meeting and their expressions that things are changing within the communities as a result of the intervention and the honesty and respect for each other that they brought to the review meeting. Clearly the representatives who were present see the community component of Vision for Change as a key program element that can bring increased skills in problem solving to the community that will result in creating a better quality of life in the communities as the program progresses.