Evaluation of the IDH Cocoa Origins Program


In 2010, the Dutch Government and cocoa and chocolate sector initially committed to reach 100% sustainable cocoa consumption in the Dutch market by 2025. The Dutch Initiative for Sustainable Cocoa expanded on these ambitions in 2020.

The Cocoa Origins Program supported companies that use small and medium quantities of cocoa and supply the Dutch consumer market, to make investments into sustainable cocoa production in origin countries. Eight projects put forward by partnerships of diverse cocoa actors were supported by the program.

KIT's Evaluation of the programme

The objective of the evaluation was to gain insights into the effectiveness of Cocoa Origins from its startup phase in 2017/2018 until the final implementation phases in 2022. We assessed the performance of Cocoa Origins against the key research questions of Relevance, Coherence, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Impact, Sustainability. 

The evaluation design centered on the use of contribution analysis to analyse the program’s theory of change (ToC), as well as the ToCs and results of eight individual projects.

  • We mapped the contributions of implementers towards each output, outcome and impact KPI.
  • The evidence collected for each project was analyzed against the project-level ToC. This was done by building contribution stories that show evidence on results, assumptions, risks and links between interventions and outputs and outcomes, an analysis of how credible these are, patterns of agreements between sources that would validate the results chain, main weaknesses in the stories and missing data or information, and finally other influencing factors (e.g., COVID-19, support from other stakeholders, farmers’ perceptions of the effects of inflation on living and farming costs, etc.).
  • We performed a qualitative weighing of evidence synthesized for the main impact pathways of each project, to see of sufficient evidence was found to validate the pathways. 
  • Three main types of data sources underly the evaluation: a comprehensive desk review; semi-structured interviews with project implementers and program management; and focus group discussions with cocoa farmers and managers of cooperatives and associations. 

    Results and recommendations

    The projects proposed many diverse, innovative interventions, to strengthen or to achieve ambitious business cases for growing cocoa more sustainably. The challenges that were tackled, and lessons learned are valuable for the whole cocoa sector. The majority of the 19,454 farmers reached with the trainings, and 7,210 reached through the inputs and services, improved their business cases for growing cocoa.

    The evaluation found evidence of the COP’s contributions to positive outcomes and impact in all eight projects. The cascading training and technical assistance approaches used by implementers have considerably strengthened the capacities of local partners and beneficiary producer organisations, so they can sustain the interventions in the medium and long-terms.

    Recommendations are included in IDH’s final report for the program, available here. The main recommendations elaborate on how to improve the design, effectiveness and impact of future programs; what is the importance of sharing the lessons learnt; and how actors in the cocoa sector can be pragmatic in the adoption and use of digital solutions. 

    The program’s Key Performance Indicators were grouped in three Results Areas:

    1. Sector Governance – increasing the visibility and reach of the projects to new markets.

    2. Business Practices – identify cases which are replicable (e.g., other geographies) and scalable (e.g., in achieving living incomes, cadmium reduction, creating agroforestry areas, etc.).

    3. Field Level Sustainability – a specific focus of Cocoa Origins, with general KPIs for all projects and specific KPIs per project (See table below).