Cooperativa de Exportação de Cação de Qualidade (known as CECAQ-11) was born out of a collaboration between local NGO Zatona-Adil and British Fairtrade company Cafédirect, and was supported by the UN’s International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD). The initiative was motivated by a desire to regenerate cocoa production after a severe decline due to a crash in world commodity process in the 1990s. Cocoa, which currently represents 95% of all exports, was at an all-time low, and in 2004 São Tomé and Príncipe only produced 50 metric tonnes (MT) - a stark contrast to peak production of around 36,148 MT in 1910 when it was the world’s largest cocoa producer and nicknamed ‘the Chocolate Islands’. Through investment and work undertaken by multiple parties, by 2016 cocoa exports (conventional and certified) had reached 3,000 MT, with a total sales value of USD$8.3 million.
Since CECAQ was founded in 2009 it has continued to grow and thrive. CECAQ-11 started with 11 associations of producers and only 232 members. In its first year it sold 8 MT which was half of the country’s cocoa production. A year later, CECAQ-11 had received Fairtrade certification, followed by Organic certification in 2013, when it exported 189 MT of Fairtrade and Organic cocoa. Today it is a second level cooperative with 1,214 members from 20 associations. In 2017 CECAQ-11produced and exported 300 MT to two main buyers. It has an export forecast of 350 MT (12% of national production) for 2018. The premium raised from Fairtrade sales has been invested in: organic farming inputs; infrastructure (drying equipment); the purchase of additional land; and community investments such as a children’s nursery and income generating projects.