The Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) in collaboration with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) are implementing the Ghana component of the Cocoa4Future. The project’s overall aim is to contribute to the agro-ecological and organizational transitions of cocoa production. To successfully implement two critical activities “Identification and analysis of specific quality channels: organizational innovations and functional upgrading” and “Analysis of the impact of quality-related organizational innovations on cocoa farmers' livelihoods”, a scholarship opportunity has arisen for one PhD candidate.
Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produced around 60% of the world cocoa production in 2017/2018 (ICCO 2020). In the coming years, a sharp rise in the consumption of chocolate products is expected due to enhanced living standards in several highly populated emerging countries. However, the cocoa sectors in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana face several sustainability issues. The historically dominant cocoa production model is based on the expansion of orchards often on land after total forest clearing (Jagoret, Deheuvels, and Bastide 2014). Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are also grappling with the problem of ageing cocoa stands, the loss of soil fertility and the diminishing availability of forest areas. The rehabilitation of former cocoa stands is hampered by the presence of cocoa swollen-shoot virus and the global climate change trend. These agri-environmental issues increase the vulnerability of cocoa producers, and the actual cocoa production model has also implications for workers, who are often migrants with low salaries, and 2.1 millions of child (Fountain and Huetz-Adams 2018).
The structure of the value chain also raises a number of issues. Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa is almost exclusively traded on mainstream or commodity markets, which generate little premium for product quality. The liberalisation reforms led to an increasing horizontal concentration along the global value chain: only few companies at the segments of trading, processing and manufacturing manage most of products. Furthermore, these companies fuelled a vertical integration of the value chains, from beans sourcing to chocolate production. This concentration and integration led to asymmetric bargaining powers, between few large companies and the 2 millions of cocoa producing families (Fountain and Huetz-Adams 2018). It suggests that producers would obtain around 6.6% of the value generated by the chocolate value chains (VoiceNetwork 2015), and despite safeguards set by policies, they are affected by world price volatility and by poverty.
The challenge remains to find cocoa cropping models and value chain organisations that address these sustainability issues. Such models must guarantee a decent livelihood for family farmers while avoiding practices that are detrimental to the environment (Amiel, Laurans, and Muller 2019). Some organisations promote agro-ecological practices in the form of cocoa agro-forest systems (Jagoret, Deheuvels, and Bastide 2014). Furthermore, under pressure from politicians and consumers, large cocoa and chocolate companies increasingly require sustainability and traceability labels that should aim at protecting the environment, banning child labour or better remunerating cocoa farmers. In particular, certification schemes are increasingly promoted by chocolate and cocoa industries. The share of cocoa marketed under Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance or organic certification increased from 3% in 2009 to 30% of the world production in 2015 (VoiceNetwork 2015). Simultaneously, some private companies such as Barry Callebaut, Mondelez or Nestlé develop specific programs including sustainability standards.
The ability of certification to contribute to the sustainability goals is still subject to debate. On the one hand, some research present evidence of positive contributions. They showed in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that certification improve farmers yields through input access, and cooperative income thanks to a premium (Basso et al. 2012). In particular in Ghana, the UTZ (Waarts et al. 2015)and the Rainforest alliance certifications (Astrid Fenger et al. 2017)improved farmers’ good agricultural practices, working conditions and income. On the other hand, other research findings denounce the inability of certification to make the cocoa value chain more sustainable. In Côte d’Ivoire, some exporters drive the certification network to facilitate and use their position as orchestrator to control sales of cooperatives and their premium. Furthermore, the main environmental sustainability certification schemes in Côte d’Ivoire tend to support cocoa farms productivity but not agroforest practices (Sanial and Ruf 2018)as well as give less attention to environmental issues (Lemeilleur et al. 2015). Finally, the certification schemes have many shortcomings in their implementation. In some cases, product segregation is not respected, auditors are not independent and producers do not receive premiums (Uribe Leitz and Ruf 2020).
There is a need for more information about cocoa value chains’ coordination mechanisms that would support and valorise practices addressing these aforementioned agro-environmental and socioeconomic issues. First, besides certification, value chain actors can implement organisational innovations bearing sustainability potential. For instance, alternative small-scale channels have been created in Côte d’Ivoire to meet local chocolate consumption. Similarly, some farmer organisations themselves can integrate the first processing steps (Ruf and Konan 2019). Second, the contribution of the various certification schemes to these sustainability goals are still in debate.
This call for application therefore, aims at sponsoring a PhD candidate to carry out his/her thesis, which will gear towards contributing to the understanding on the implementation of coordinated mechanisms in the cocoa value chain in Ghana, to enhance sustainability. The candidate’s thesis will therefore seek to question the ability of several organisational innovations to contribute to sustainable cocoa production. The following supporting research questions are relevant:
- What are the drivers of organisational innovations in the cocoa value chain in Ghana?
- What are the trade-offs between the sustainable development dimensions in line with these innovations?
- What are the impacts of the organisational innovations?
Several theories could be drawn upon by the selected candidate, to either undertake the traditional (dissertation) or articles-based PhD work. First, the thesis could draw on the institutional economics literature (Williamson 1985), which explains market imperfections, asymmetries of information and the diversity of coordination modes implemented by value chain actors. In particular, the thesis could combine the literature on the governance of value chains (Gereffi, Humphrey, and Sturgeon 2005; Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994), which analyse the power relationships within the chain, and the collective action literature (Ostrom 2010), which explains the drivers enabling a group of users to sustainably manage a resource. Such combined frameworks could provide theoretical insights about how collective action can drive the governance of cocoa towards more inclusive and balanced forms of governance.
Second, the thesis could develop a conceptual framework about agricultural innovation systems. Such approach analyses innovation processes at multiple levels and within specific fields, and deciphers how actors’ networks bring existing or new products, processes, and forms of organization into social and economic uses (World Bank 2006).
Third, the thesis could call upon the agrarian political economy literature, which implements historical and community-based approaches and focuses on the links between agrarian transformations, power relationships, capital accumulation and social differentiation (Adams et al., 2019).
The thesis should adopt an eclectic research design, combining both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Insight could be drawn from the following:
- Conventional or systematic literature review (Adams, Smart, and Huff 2017).
- Case studies of organisational innovations (Rashid et al. 2019), carried out in two steps: an exploratory survey followed by an in-depth study. They will be based on semi-directed interviews, focus group discussions and farmers workshops.
- Realist impact evaluation, which is a theory-based evaluation approach that questions the complexity of impact pathways in their contexts (Westhorp 2014).
- Counterfactual quasi-experimental impact evaluation methods (Gertler et al. 2016), which rely on large farmers survey to correct for selection bias. Such method enables highlighting causal links between participation in an innovative form of coordination and an outcome.
Conditions of the scholarship:
The following conditions will bind the Ph. D candidate:
- The potential Ph.D student should have finished and passed All Year One courses at the University of Ghana and about to start Year two in 2021.
- Stipend: 600 euros per month during three years. Budget for qualitative and quantitative data collection is included in the project and managed by University of Ghana.
- The Ph. D student preferably in Development Studies, Economics and Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness should be based at the University of Ghana.
- A minimum of six months will be spent in France at CIRAD in the course of the scholarship. The Ph. D student might attend various training courses.
- Supervision of the thesis: to be specified
- The Ph.D could be undertaken either through the traditional (dissertation) or articles-based approaches. Irrespective of which approach, the candidate is required to develop three articles, with one published by the time he/she defends the thesis.
- The candidate will also be required to attend and present in at least one international conference.
Education and required skills of Ph. D candidates
- Masters in Economics or Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness, preferably with training or knowledge on institutional or political economics
- Ability to learn and work independently
- Ability to undertake fieldwork in remote areas
- Fluent in English, French speaking is a plus
- Proven knowledge in quantitative and qualitative research methods
- Proven knowledge in realist and/or counterfactual impact evaluation is a plus
- Female applicants are encouraged
Applications should contain the following documents:
- A clear thesis topic based on the focus of the call and a four-page proposal with all the relevant constituents (problem statement, aim and objectives, research questions, theory/conceptualisation, methodology).
- A two-page resume, highlighting educational background and research accomplishments.
- A first selection will be carried out based on the documents submitted. A final selection will be carried out after an interview.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: 12 DECEMBER 2020
Questions and applications must be sent to the following email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org; FAsante@ug.edu.gh; email@example.com