Cocoa versus Gold

Posted by Richard Anstead on 15 November 2016

In mid–September, I travelled in Ghana with Sophi Tranchell from Divine Chocolate | Owned by cocoa farmers. Made for chocolate lovers, a close partner of Twin’s.

Together Sophi and I headed out to a town called Wasai Akropong in the West of Ghana. Sophi is the Managing Director of Divine and together we wanted to see some of the work Divine had been investing in; work delivered on the ground by Twin. It was on the journey from Kumasi that we started to see signs of the battle between Cocoa and Gold. It has been widely reported over the last few years that the cocoa industry is facing something of a crisis. According to the Fairtrade Foundation the cocoa industry is ‘waking up to a potential long-term shortfall in global supply; disease and age are damaging cocoa trees and the number of farmers is falling because the benefits are so poor that few young people want to stay in the profession - the average age of a cocoa farmer is 50!’

We could see this happening in front of our eyes here where farmers were selling their cocoa farms and receiving perhaps three years of income from the sale. Perhaps a welcome flow of cash in the short term but not without a cost as the land is soon ruined for farming as the mining equipment moves in and the effect on local rivers and communities appear to be detrimental too.

Cocoa vs gold

A galamsey/ local artisanal gold mine near Wasia Akropong, Ghana.

To help make farming more attractive for future generations Twin has worked on Divine’s behalf with Kuapa Kokoo (founding member, shareholder and main cocoa supplier to Divine) to put in place a series of initiatives. Sophi and I met with farmers who were being supported to improve quality and yield through good agricultural practices, discovering the best combination of farm inputs for their area, rehabilitate aging plots and demonstrate the results to other farmers in the area.

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Bismark Korandine, Cocoa farmer. Wasia Akropong, Ghana.

We also met with men and women farmers who had attended an adult literacy programme and others who for the first time now had their ownership rights over their land documented for the first time, giving them the peace of mind that their hard work on the land would not be put at risk by any dispute over who owns the land they farm.

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Christian Ablondey, Cocoa Farmer. Wasai Akropong, Ghana.

When we travelled back to the UK we left with a firm belief that although this was just one area and we had only met a few farmers, Divine and Twin were working together to make a real impact.

Divine Chocolate’s Producer Support and Development Programme aims to contribute to the creation of sustainable smallholder communities through a focus on four main areas of work: strong, democratic producer organisations; empowerment of women as farmers and leaders; diversified, high-yielding, environmentally resilient production systems; and fair labour practices along the supply chain. With match-funding from the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme, Divine’s work through Twin is currently supporting two Kuapa Kokoo cooperative societies in Wasa Akropong and Dadieso in western Ghana to develop and demonstrate a model of good practice in cooperative governance, business management and inclusive member service provision that delivers maximum impact for farmer members, their families and workers and is also financially sustainable.