Cocoa farmers bring sweet dreams to life


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Cocoa farmers bring sweet dreams to life

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
© IFAD/Luis Bernardo Cano

Chocolate is a beloved treat the world over – but did you know that nearly all of it is produced by small-scale farmers? These rural men and women in Africa, Asia and South America make it possible for us to buy our favourite snack.

Yet for all the hard work they put in, many are still trapped in poverty. On average, cocoa farmers earn just 6 per cent of the final value of a bar of chocolate.

With the right support, they can achieve the food and income security they deserve. Let’s celebrate some of the small-scale farmers who are making our lives a little sweeter, sustainably.

Reinvigorating traditional livelihoods

Femi holds cacao pods harvested from his farm in Idanre, Ondo, southwestern Nigeria. © IFAD/Andrew Esiebo

Thirty-two-year-old Femi Olofingbasote learned how to cultivate cacao from his father on their farm in Ondo state, southwestern Nigeria. But when he became a trainee with the IFAD-supported LIFE-ND initiative, he gained a wealth of new knowledge.

The modern farming techniques he now uses – such as effective pruning and replacing older trees – have doubled his annual crop yield to over a tonne. Meanwhile, by using slow fermentation, he gives his cocoa beans a deliciously intense aroma that commands premium prices.

It’s no wonder Femi’s annual income from cocoa has quadrupled. He once struggled to provide his children with basic meals; now, he dreams of leaving them a thriving business.

“Right now, I rent the land. But the owner has agreed to sell it to me,” he says. “The farm will be mine forever. The investment I am making today will pay off in the future.”

To support his community, Femi is sharing what he’s learned with five of his own trainees. His graduation gift to them? A hundred cacao seedlings each to start their own farms.

Ensuring healthy supply chains

Rufiad tests cacao pods for quality and health in Sulawesi, Indonesia. © IFAD/JeftaImages

In the lush green hills of Sulawesi, Indonesia’s fourth-biggest island, a group of 4,000 cocoa doctors is helping cacao trees deal with extreme weather, pests, and diseases so we can continue enjoying our favourite sweet treat.

One of them is Rufiad, a farmer who completed the cocoa doctor programme offered at the Mars Cocoa Academy in partnership with READSI. Here, she learned how to prepare land, tend cacao trees, diagnose any problems with production or quality, and administer the right treatment. She's using her new knowledge to replant her father’s ageing cocoa farm with more resilient species.

IFAD first brokered a collaboration between the Indonesian government and Mars Incorporated back in 2012. With this, Mars gained access to a reliable source of quality cocoa, while farmers learned sustainable techniques and finally started getting a good price for their labour.

Since then, the partnership has grown, including through the cocoa doctor training. Now, farmers like Rufiad are becoming competitive producers in global chocolate supply chains while protecting their natural environment.

Sharing cocoa farming with the world

Johny stands proudly at the beginning of his Cacao de la Sierra cocoa tour in San Rafael, Colombia. © IFAD/Luis Bernardo Cano

A few years ago, 22-year-old Johny Serrano had a dream. He knew that his family’s cacao farm in San Rafael, Colombia sent fantastic cocoa to the rest of the world – but he wanted to bring the world to San Rafael.

Thanks to the PUENTES initiative, Johnny has made his dream a reality.

He is now the proud custodian of Cacao de la Sierra, a tourist route that follows the history and preparation of chocolate in the region.

Through an IFAD-supported tourism course, he became one of over 700 young rural Colombians trained in developing sustainable tourism and showcasing the food they produce. Visitors to Johny’s family farm can learn how their favourite snacks are produced using sustainable methods and buy locally made chocolate to take home.

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As the world’s chocolate consumption grows, small-scale farmers like Johny, Rufiad and Femi are working tirelessly to produce cacao sustainably. We owe it to them to ensure they get a decent return for producing the tasty treats we love.