A Cocoa Life in Ghana: A study of partnership capacity to influence value chain upgrading of smallholder farmers

Helene Egebjerg

Student thesis: Master thesis


Partnerships between state actors, private companies and civil society organisation are increasingly being promoted as new organisational models with the capacity to solve complex problems related to global value chains (GVCs). Nevertheless, much ambiguity remains around the benefits of such partnerships to smallholder farmers in developing countries (DCs). This thesis seeks to add new insights into this field of study by examining a partnership in the GVC for cocoa. Through a case study of the Cocoa Life (CL) partnership in Ghana, the thesis explores and explains the partnership’s capacity to influence the upgrading possibilities of Ghanaian smallholder cocoa famers. Based on empirical finding from fieldwork in Ghana, the thesis empirically analyses the inputoutput structure, the territoriality, the governance structures and the institutional environment of the GVC for cocoa. The study combines insights from GVC analysis with literature on partnerships to argue that the CL partnership has improved the farmers’ capacity to comply with increasing GVC requirements and overcome constraints in the institutional environment causing improved upgrading possibilities for smallholder farmers in the GVC for cocoa.The thesis discovers that the CL partnership has improved process, product and volume upgrading possibilities for the smallholder cocoa farmers who are part of the CL program in Ghana. Through the establishment of farmer co-operatives and stronger business ties with international chocolate companies, the farmers have improve their access to knowledge, new technologies and high yielding inputs. As a result, the smallholders have been able to increase their productivity and incomes from cocoa by adhering to improved agronomic practices and becoming Fairtrade certified. This has increased the cocoa farmers’ benefits from GVC participation and reduced their exposure to risk. Another key finding of the research is that the influence of the CL partnership is restricted to a relatively small group of cocoa farmers and that the majority of smallholder farmers in Ghana are unable to upgrade their position in the GVC. Doing so, the study contributes with further insights on the capacity of partnerships to address social, environmental and economic problems in GVCs and argues that partnership initiatives can be important initiators of change in global agricultural trade but also serve as mechanisms to further corporate interests of lead firms.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages112