To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

March 08, 2011

Sao Tome and Principe farmers benefit from fair trade cocoa

by Martin Plaut

Farmers on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, off the coast of West Africa, are again enjoying the sweet taste of success thanks to high-quality, organic, fair-trade cocoa - the raw ingredient for chocolate.

Once in the doldrums, production of the country's cocoa crop has risen sharply, registering a 10-fold increase since 2004.

Many of the small farmers, who were previously living on the edge of poverty, have seen a boost to their incomes. The key to the success has been the development of farmers' co-operatives, which have allowed the farmers to cut out the middlemen who took a large chunk of the profits.

"My life is different now," says Jose Esperansa, a small-scale cocoa farmer, who is now the managing director of CECEAQ-11, a cocoa-fermenting, drying and exporting co-operative.

The initiative, supported by the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) and Cafedirect, a British Fairtrade firm, has helped the co-operatives produce Fairtrade certified beans.

Sao Tome and Principe, a Portuguese colony until 1975, has an ideal climate and rich soils that are ideal for growing cocoa. The crop was introduced in the 19th Century and cultivated by slaves brought from the African mainland, where they worked on plantations, known as rocas.

But by the late 1990s, the crop was in severe decline, partly because of a crash in the price of the commodity.

The results were crippling, since cocoa made up 95% of the island's exports. Farmers lost faith in cocoa as a source of income and one politician even predicted the end of the industry on the islands. A quarter of farmers were left living below the poverty line.

In order to reverse the industry's decline, Ifad commissioned French organic chocolate producer Kaoka to assess the country's cocoa sector. Kaoka found that if the farmers could produce cocoa certified as organic, they could improve the price of their crop.

Now - in a scheme backed by Ifad and Cafedirect - the farmers' fortunes have been transformed. By coming together in co-operatives and by processing their cocoa, they have managed to get a much better return on their crop.

"Before Cafedirect I would work from day-to-day, hand-to-mouth," says Mr Esperansa. "I did not think about the future."

Cafedirect head Anne MacCaig recently travelled to the islands to see how it was done.

"They have the facilities to ferment the product and then from that they are able to work together across the different organisations to dry the cocoa, collect it all in one central warehouse," she said. "Then they are able to export it. They are benefiting from five times the price they had when they sold it as a gloopy white liquid."

Before the programme began in 2004, Sao Tome produced just 50 tonnes of cocoa. By mid-2010 this had risen to 600 tonnes of organic, fair-trade beans.

Many producers have invested in home improvements and can now afford items like bicycles, generators, radios and refrigerators. The co-operatives are investing in primary health-care clinics and better sanitation.

But is the support for the cocoa crop tying the farmers into a single crop, monoculture?

Mrs MacCaig says it will not.

"Sao Tome is an island with incredibly rich volcanic soil, so if you can do this with cocoa, there are so many other products that can be grown as well."


Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings expo exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture hydroponics ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maiz maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by

Back to TOP