Visit to Ghana – Meeting tomorrow’s cocoa farmers
Note: This post is authored by Nico Schiller, Corporate Affairs Manager at Mars Chocolate Germany
During a press trip to Ghana hosted by Mars Chocolate Germany and UTZ CERTIFIED – one of the largest sustainability programs in the world – we offered journalists a field visit to the cocoa plantations. Ghana, the second largest cocoa producing country, is one of the first countries with UTZ CERTIFIED farms. On the ground the journalists learn about the practical implementation and positive impact of sustainable cocoa farming – demonstrating Mars´ goal of the highest possible transparency.
Our trip takes us to the village of Boagyaa. The glistening midday sun shines straight down on us, and the humidity of the rainy season loomed like a heavy cloud over the mud huts with their sheet-metal roofs. The laughter of children in their bright orange school shirts fills the air. A nurse, physician, soccer player, bank director – the boys and girls in this village school know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. However, none strive to be cocoa farmers like their parents – the pay was has been too bad – except for ten-year-old Anima Muro. She gets upset with her classmates.
“Many don’t know how to manage the work in the plantations efficiently,” she says. “All that is needed are some changes to get higher yields.”
This is precisely what the people hope for in this green tropical district of AhafoAno North – the center of the Ashanti cocoa growing region in the heart of Ghana.
Little Anima brings up a point what the international non-profit organization UTZ CERTIFIED has adopted as its cause. UTZ coordinates a globally recognized sustainability program – more cocoa at improved quality that has been cultivated with respect for people and the planet. This also includes comprehensive farmer training – in the classrooms and on the fields – covering agricultural and business elements. Such support enables farmers to produce better cocoa plants more effectively and increase their yields while preserving the environment. And they can finally send their children to school – instead of the plantations.
The village of Boagyaa belongs to the first UTZ CERTIFIED project in Ghana named AHANSUCOFA, (AhafoAno North and South UTZ Cocoa Farmers Association). The project is located in two districts located in the Ashanti region, one of the most important cocoa producing regions in Ghana. The project is now in 20 communities and includes about 815 farmers. Due to the high interest of non-members resulting from positive changes on the UTZ CERTIFIED farms, membership might possibly grow beyond 1,000 farmers by end of 2011.
Boagyaa is located far away from electricity and asphalt streets. Here is where Ashanti chiefs are still calling the shots and they believe that it’s worth giving the new, sustainable cocoa production a try. The same goes for Animo Muro’s parents sitting together with relatives and neighbors in the shade of palm leaves around a huge mountain of harvested cocoa fruit. In compliance with UTZ CERTIFIED rules, there are no children working here. Two, three swift blows with the machete and the pods are cracked open to remove the pulp and beans, which after fermentation are spread out in the open to dry in the African sun, eventually producing cocoa.