90% of the world's cocoa is grown on small family farms by an estimated six million farmers, for whom the cultivation and sale of cocoa beans remains their only livelihood. Despite the fact that cocoa is always in demand, prices for it often fluctuate, and it is not possible to predict the exact volume of the harvest due to various factors.
Farmers cannot plan their future, and if we add to this natural disasters, diseases and other emergencies, the degree of their social insecurity becomes clear. After that, the words "third world country" take on a particularly sad sound.
The reality is that the lives of most agricultural managers and farmers in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire - the main suppliers of raw cocoa in the world - are about an ongoing fight against poverty and survival.
Partnering with CocoaLife, a social and educational assistance program for farmers, is a gateway to a new future for them.
In Ghana, cocoa has been cultivated for over a century and is the country's second most important export crop after gold. Over the past few years, cocoa production here has been steadily declining: young people did not want to bend their backs like experienced aging farmers, significant hectares of plantations were captured by rapidly evolving weeds and parasitic plants, and yields were slowly but surely disappearing.
As a result, the farms produced nearly half the amount of quality cocoa beans that could be expected from them. The CocoaLife Partnership Program, which aims to improve the income and livelihoods of cocoa farmers, came to Ghana in 2008. By 2020, it plans to invest $ 400 million in 200,000 cocoa farming communities in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, India, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Indonesia with its help. What does CocoaLife do?
4 important facts about CocoaLife's activities in Ghana
Modernizes agriculture and improves the methods of growing cocoa. The process of obtaining raw materials for chocolate - cocoa beans - is complex and not amenable to automation. The fruit should be grown in hot and humid climates, in soft soils, on squat, spreading trees, carefully removed by hand with a machete and carefully opened. The beans must then be removed from the fruit, fermented properly and dried well in the sun. It is hard and exhausting work: a thick dope of dense sour vapors of rotting fruit residues and cocoa beans roasting in the sun stands over the farm
The CocoaLife program educates farmers in good agricultural practices. Previous intuitive and outdated methods of working with land, seeds and seedlings, fruits and beans, have led to colossal yield losses. For example, in some parts of Ghana, farmers managed to get only 40% of the potential harvest of 100%. The training, delivered by campaign ambassadors and expert volunteers, reached over 160 cocoa bean growing communities and significantly improved results.
In just five years of the program, yields have almost halved, and farm incomes doubled (for the first time in the community's century-old history). It was thanks to the experts that the farmers learned that they need to sow the most extensive plantations, trying to predict crop failures, plant trees in rows in order to quickly collect fruits, detect plant diseases at the earliest stage and dry the beans not for four days, but all seven.
“As far back as I can remember, I have always been in debt because I didn’t make much money. My kids always needed something to go to school, or we had a hefty family budget. I have always borrowed and always worried about how to repay the debt. Today, the productivity of my farm has improved and I am proud that I don’t owe anyone anything,”says Nano, a farmer from the community in Asanmankes.
Teaches financial literacy. CocoaLife enhances financial literacy in Ghana through savings and loan associations. Farms have a higher income, but life has shown that farmers, also dependent on the vagaries of nature, must be able to plan the future
Community financial education helps to save and save money (for example, to pay for school fees), as well as borrow money to invest in their own business. It should also be noted that CocoaLife does not enforce labor monopolization: on the contrary, the program encourages diversification. Community members can participate in additional income-generating activities - this can be the cultivation of other agricultural crops (for example, corn), animal husbandry, and various crafts.
Teaches. CocoaLife helps children get educated. Despite the fact that Ghana has one of the most developed education systems on the African continent, the situation is not very optimistic - in the midst of the crisis in the country and outrageous poverty, obtaining basic knowledge has ceased to be something very necessary
Since the mid-90s, Ghana has two educational systems - budgetary and private. The best education can be obtained in a paid school, but, of course, not everyone can afford it. But keeping a student in a public educational institution - and that means paying for textbooks, stationery, and school uniforms - can be too expensive for a farmer's family.
Added to this is an important point: there are no schools in remote villages, but the nearest one still needs to be reached … CocoaLife is currently working to improve the school infrastructure in controlled communities and increase the level of affordable education, and at the same time is fighting the exploitation of child labor. After all, when a child is studying, he can help (just help, not work!) Parents on the cocoa farm only on days off from school - on weekends.
Fights for women's rights. CocoaLife, in full accordance with the global trend, defends the role of women in the social system and fights to empower them. The program trains women in farming and business management skills. It would seem, what could be easier?
But for too long a woman in Africa was not in the second place - in the twenty-second plan. In most countries, the cultivation of cocoa beans is considered a "man's" business, while in fact it was women who were always entrusted with the most important and responsible parts of the production process of cocoa beans - fermentation and drying.
But this contribution to obtaining the final product was not always appreciated at its true worth. Times change. Today, thanks to the work of CocoaLife, more and more women have a voice in the community and their contributions to the cause are valued not only by women, but also by members of the male community. For such as the Ghanaian patriarchal way of life, this is practically a fantasy.
With the support of CocoaLife and her community, even single mothers today have the opportunity to work, maintain a home, pay for their children’s schooling, and help elderly parents. Juliana is 27 years old and runs a small bakery business selling bread to locals, workers and schoolchildren in her home village: “I always had a business mindset, but I didn't have the capital - not a single penny to start my own business. I've always wanted to bake sweet bread for sale - no one has ever done that here. Now it has become possible. Who is buying? Farmers who go to work early in the morning. It happens that schoolchildren also take buns. And you know, I'm completely happy. In fact, I do all this for my daughter - she wants to become a nurse. Now I am confident that I can pay for her education."
The editors would like to thank Mondelez for their help in organizing the trip to Ghana
Photo: archives of press services
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