Cocoa and Sanitation: The Unexpected Link

Embarking on new ventures
permits us to discover our true strengths – pushing us to confront and conquer the unknown.

Upon graduating, I found myself immersed in an uncharted environment, totally distinct from my major – political science – and therefore what I thought would be my career path. I began an entry-level position at Cargill in the cocoa sector, stepping into the role as a total novice, eager to embrace the position but also sometimes doubtful about the possible challenges that lay ahead.

However, I soon realised that many of my colleagues, coming from diverse backgrounds such as law, chemistry and finance, were once in similar situations. Despite their varied expertise, they learned, adapted and excelled in their roles in the thriving of the agroforestry sector- and more importantly, brought an essential multiskilled approach to problem solving. 

After several enriching years in the cocoa industry, I chose to transition to the sanitation sector— a new unknown and yet profoundly interconnected field. My time spent among farmers in my role with Cargill revealed that their needs extended far beyond cocoa cultivation. They urgently required tangible solutions, often revolving around fundamental human rights, SDG 6 included. In my new role with the Toilet Board Coalition – we accelerate business solutions to precisely these challenges.  

  • Cocoa farming in Ivory Coast is often secluded to less developed regions, which lack sanitation solutions – meaning producers and their families are exposed to waterborne diseases. Stunting not only their health but also their productivity and economic development.

  • Effective irrigation is crucial to cocoa’s cultivation flourishing. Poor water quality will also, more often than not, result in a poor harvest. As opposed, sustainable practices applied in the water and sanitation department will ensure higher quality products resulting in customer satisfaction and more market opportunities.
  • The impacts of climate change and increase in extreme weather events are felt in the agroforestry ecosystem – with water (too much or too little of it) often at the centre. Without sanitation solutions, water becomes dramatically more dangerous to people and crops as it is polluted with human waste.  

As the Business Development Manager for Africa at the Toilet Board Coalition, we not only get to support localised solutions for individuals and communities like I’d partnered with at Cargill, but we also work with multinational corporations to do so – bringing their skills and perspectives to help solve the sanitation crisis.  

So ultimately the new unknown, or leap into sanitation, I’ve realised isn’t so unknown. And again, I’m reminded of the strength in multiskilled and multi-stakeholder approaches.  

Curious to learn how you can get involved? Please, feel free to reach out as there will always be room for like-minded people willing to make a difference. 

Author: Aicha Cissoko, Business Development Manager Africa


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