The Gola Rainforest Cocoa project in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, is transforming the future for farmers living in the region’s forest-edge. These communities have been directly and devastatingly affected by ethnic conflict and the Ebola outbreak and now people are focusing on building a better future for their families. Farmers are keen to tap into the high-quality potential of their cocoa so they can develop more profitable income for their work.
As part of a 3-year funded project, smallholder farmers have formed a producer organisation to export high quality cocoa beans to the specialty market. This project supports the training of local cocoa officers who have established a network of village collection facilities. They also provide training on post-harvest fermentation and drying, which means farmers have been consistently delivering high quality beans. As farmers improve their knowledge of sustainable farming practices, they integrate rainforest conservation into their cocoa production. Men and women farmers have formed groups to increase gender equality by exploring how income and decision-making is distributed within families and households.
After just one year, the farmers exported their first container of premium cocoa, giving Sierra Leone new visibility in the specialty market, and a unique origin for the buyer. Farmer membership continues to grow within the first chiefdom to join the producer organisation, Gaura. Membership is now expanding to nearby chiefdoms of Tonkia and Koya, as well as Malema. As more farmers join, production capacity is expected to increase steadily over the coming years.
This ambitious programme is running from 2015-2018 and is supported by Comic Relief and delivered by Twin in a collaboration with Gola Rainforest National Park (Sierra Leone), RSPB (UK), and Jula Consultancy (Sierra Leone).