As a farmer, I spend my days tending cocoa trees and harvesting the fruit. But what happens to the cocoa beans after they leave my farm? I recently had the opportunity to see the other side of the business firsthand.
Through the Cocoa Life program, I traveled to the United Kingdom for the first time. I was joined by Ayishetu Yaba-Ka Abdulai, a farmer extension agent for Cocobod (the Ghana Cocoa Board), and Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, country lead for Cocoa Life in Ghana. Our schedule was busy: we visited the Mondelēz offices in London, and spent time with members of the Cadbury team in Bournville.
There, we toured the Cadbury factory, where we saw how the beans that we grow and pick turn into chocolate. I was really impressed with what I saw. They go through a complex process that turns them into a cocoa liquor, and then into individual chocolates. A machine wraps them and packs them into a box. It was interesting and good, too, for the factory workers to meet some of the people who make the cocoa they work with every day.
We were also invited to talk about the program in more detail during a panel organized for employees with a representative of Fairtrade and Glenn Caton, President of Mondelēz Northern Europe.
In Westminster, we met with Steve McCabe, MP, who gave us a personal tour of the House of Parliament. We discussed how the Cocoa Life program started, and how it improves the lives of cocoa farmers. I shared how I used to harvest eight or 10 pods per tree. After I learned good farming practices, such as burning, pruning, and weeding, through Cocoa Life, my yield increased. I was harvesting 50 pods after three years, and last year I moved to over 100 pods.
It became clear to me on this trip the importance of strong partnerships. We farmers, as producers, are one part of the process. There’s also manufacturing, packaging, and distribution. We need to come together to keep sharing ideas, which will benefit all parties.
That is what Cocoa Life focuses on: creating true partnerships between the business and the farmers.
After I returned to my country and to my community, I shared everything I learned on my trip with my fellow farmers: There’s a lot of work that happens after we produce the beans. As farmers, we need to put in much effort from the outset. We have to take production seriously at the farming level. When we invest in our farms, we produce more — and everyone is better off.