Nearly 60% of the world’s cocoa is grown around the Gulf of Guinea, where cocoa is one of the major cash crops and constitutes a source of income for the countries and smallholder families that produce it. However, the cocoa sector is controlled for the most part by bean-exporting companies and is regulated at the national level. All of this means that producer organizations cannot get involved beyond the stages of growing and harvesting the cocoa.
A brand new system for producing high-quality, organic cocoa in West Africa
AVSF has extensive experience working in Amérique latine [Latin America] and Haïti [Haiti] and is now helping the Atsemawoe organization and its 500 producers in West Africa to set up a brand new system for controlling the quality of their cocoa. A program has already been put in place to teach the producers proper agricultural practices as well as how to adhere to the standards of organic production. Thanks to the improvements made to their practices, the producers within the organization have been able to rehabilitate their plantations, most of which are quite old and have traditionally received minimal upkeep. Improved practices have also enabled the producers to curb the spreading of certain diseases. Atsemawoe is on the road to becoming one of the very few organizations of organic cocoa producers in West Africa, thanks to climatic and agro-ecological conditions that make it possible to pursue this mode of production. Moreover, Atsemawoe would be the first organization in the region to offer organic-certified cocoa beans.
AVSF is also helping this organization to set up a system for controlling cocoa quality. The system is completely new to West Africa: After each producer harvests their own fresh cocoa beans, the fermentation and drying processes are carried out collectively at centralized facilities.
The importance of empowering producer organizations
In addition to the internal monitoring system run by the producers within the Atsemawoe organization, this project also saw the implementation of an organizational reinforcement program in order to ensure that the producers themselves are able to verify that the standards for organic production are being respected and in order to give them the opportunity to be able to actively participate in the management of their organization. As a result, the volume of cocoa beans harvested has been steadily rising since the beginning of the project.
New growth markets to support producers
AVSF is also helping Atsemawoe to get in contact with varous buyers looking for cocoa that is organic certified, fair-trade certified, and of a higher quality than the rest of the cocoa produced in the region. The responses from these importers so far have been promising, and hopefully this will lead to the creation of healthy trade partnerships over the medium term.