As of December 2018, Impactum had signed contracts with 500 tree-planters and trained more than 900 on agroforestry practices. One of the planters is Kouassi Akoura Apolinaire Yao, whose trees saved some of his cocoa crop from the drought in 2015. As well as signing him up to plant trees on his land, the project also trained him to become a “planteur-relais”. In this role, he goes from village to village, training tree-planters, telling his fellow farmers about the project and making them aware of the risks of climate change.
The PES scheme has a specific focus on providing local women with new economic opportunities thanks to Impactum’s cooperation with women-led Village Saving and Loans Associations (AVECs, by their French acronym) that are in charge of setting up and maintaining tree seedling nurseries. Before the project there were no local nurseries, from which planters could buy seedlings. Now women are selling seedlings to the planters, who can pay for them with vouchers provided by the PES project.
“It didn’t rain a lot and our husbands’ plantations dried up”, says Amoin Sahoure, President of the AVEC in Assawlèkro. “Thanks to this project, we can help our husbands in supporting our families.” Within a year or two, these women-led nurseries should be running autonomously and could serve planters beyond the scope of the project, which is due to run until the end of 2019. Women are excited about reinvesting profits in the nurseries, and the potential for improving livelihoods.
“If we have enough money, we could buy a truck to go the town market and sell our products,” explains Aya Odette Brou, a member of the AVEC in Pogréagui. “We will also help new members who wish to join the project and pay for the children’s school.” The expectation is that in the longer run these economic opportunities will provide a more diversified and sustainable income for the cocoa planters and their families, while the tree cover slowly but surely increases.
The project is still at an early stage and it is to be seen what the longer-term impact on Côte d’Ivoire’s forest cover will be. But the chief of the Méagui tribe, Play Christophe Saré, already knows how far he would like to go. “We need to return to nature what we have stolen,” he says. “In our area, we would like to go even further than the Government’s plans and reforest up to 30% of the forest cover”. Through the PES project, the farmers are on the right path — one seedling at a time.