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The 2018 World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting wrapped up less than a month ago. It was made possible by the invaluable contribution of 71 speakers who traveled from all around the world to share their expertise. Among these, some had a special role to play: the speakers on our two cocoa farmer round tables. Featuring 10 farmers from seven different cocoa origins (Belize, Brazil/Bahia, Brazil/Pará, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ghana, and Peru), these round tables delivered very thoughtful and moving reflections as panelists talked about their hopes, concerns and challenges. Today we catch up with Lucy Addai-Poku, from Ghana; Eunice Gutzeit, from Brazil’s Pará state; and Lupita Intriago Mera, from Ecuador.
Can you introduce yourself and your farm to our readers?
Lucy Addai-Poku: I come from Ghana. I am 41, a teacher by profession and I hold a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. I started cocoa farming on a small scale seven years ago and I now own 2.5 hectares. My farm is situated at Asakraka ìn the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
Eunice Gutzeit: We are a family of cacao producers in the Amazon. The Panorama Farm is located in the Transamazonica region, near Uruará, in the state of Pará, Brazil. We have an area of 2,027 hectares, with 260 hectares of plantation. Our focus is on the production of fine cocoa (domestic and international market) and vertical integration with the sale of products derived from cacao (nibs and chocolate). Our vision of the future is to create better cooperation alternatives to produce with quality and sustainability!
Lupita Intriago Mera: I am 45, married, with three beautiful children. By training I am an information systems technician. Our knowledge about agriculture and cocoa came from my grandfather, who passed it on to my father and for 22 years I have been applying it myself. I have always lived in the countryside, growing fine aroma cacao, but on a diversified farm. I have a farm of 4.5 hectares with cocoa, banana, subsistence crops, poultry , piglets, timber trees and Guadua bamboo. My two oldest daughters are in University and my son is in the last year of high school. They help when their studies permit. My husband has another profession and also helps on the farm. I have been an active member of my organization, Fortaleza del Valle Corporation for past 13 years. I am a co-founder and leader of the organization, focusing mostly on political advocacy. I was recently elected as Vice President. The organization unites a total of 1,223 members, of which 923 have organic certification and the rest are in transition. We sell around 600 tons of fine aroma cocoa per year. I seek to foster more inclusion for women and youth in the organization. Our members in general are very old, which is a weak point for the sustainability of the organization.
You participated in the 2018 Partnership Meeting as speakers. How would you describe the event to someone who was not there?
Lucy: A lot of speakers shared their ideas during the 2018 Partnership Meeting. A lot of farmers also shared their stories; especially their challenges which include low price of cocoa on the world market.
Eunice: It was an event of excellence, the best I have ever had the opportunity to attend. The union of the entire cocoa chain, exchange of information with producers, participation of responsible governmental bodies, industries, … it all represented a fantastic networking opportunity, an indispensable event for those who are part of this world of cocoa! Congratulations to all who were part of this organization!
Lupita: Very interesting. I did not know that these types of events were happening. I already communicated this to the members of my organization. I realized that we are not the only ones fighting for sustainability. There are many other stakeholders who fight for this and discuss the issue internationally. What I saw in the event is that a lot of stakeholders were participating in the discussions, all the way from the producers to the last player in the chain: the traders and the ‘chocolatiers’.
What surprised you about the 2018 Partnership Meeting? What did you learn that you did not know before?
Lucy: What surprised me most was the large number of speakers and how they made their presentations especially during the breakout sessions. What I learnt that I did not know was information on the mechanization of cocoa farming: this is completely new to me. I was so impressed, and I wish it could be done in my country so that we can produce more cocoa at a time.
Eunice: I was surprised by the massive presence of every relevant supply chain stakeholders, producers, industry executives, government bodies… It is undoubtedly a good surprise to finally realize a greater union and join the interests of all segments linked to the cocoa chain to solve the current problems of the productive chain for better sustainability. This event brought me greater awareness of the responsibility and possibilities we have. We can create alternatives to grow with greater cooperation among local producers to strengthen the Amazonian productive chain, and integrate public and private policies for a better regional development and aggregation of value.
Lupita: I learned about the work carried out by many organizations, like Rikolto for instance, who seek to work as a team with all the stakeholders so that our ideas are realized. It seems very important to me, because if we work separately we will not have much strength to continue. I hope everyone continues working together to achieve more impact, to continue fighting for the good of the universe. Another important point that I discovered was that our product has a very wide range. We already knew that chocolate is the delicacy of the Gods, but it is also part of ‘food sovereignty’ because it is food, it is a base for medicines and we still need to continue discovering. Finally, I saw that there are NGOs and companies who support small producers, and everyone wants to achieve sustainability and take care of the environment. They also see how important it is that the future is in the hands of young people.
What are some of your concerns that you wish the Partnership Meeting spent more time dealing with? Would you like to suggest specific issues that we should focus on in 2019?
Lucy: I would like them to see the value / price addressed so far as the farmer is concerned; and I would like the Partnership Meeting to bring more farmers on board to share their experiences and challenges. The 2019 Partnership Meeting should focus on what will attract young people into cocoa farming so that the cocoa industry can be sustained.
Eunice: I would like to focus on: the importance of cocoa culture in preserving the environment; the price policy of the cocoa commodity; what are the real actions to guarantee sustainability in the sector without major fluctuations; actions to bring to the general public information that can generate greater awareness and responsibility for consumption.
Lupita: For me, there are three very important topics. First, caring for the environment: we are not taking care of the environment as we should. There is a beginning, but we are far from the end, or achieving the goals. Second, generational relief: young people are migrating, they are interested in a business that has profitability. Some parents now send the children to the city to study, but we have to show that the future is in the rural areas. The young people are interested in earning money, so we have to show that the farm can also be profitable, as long as it is diversified. Third, women empowerment: women are raised to be at home, and it is difficult to change this idea and show that we are capable of doing the same things as men. We have to show that we are the ‘seeds’, the caretakers, the ones who transmit the culture. We have a lot to do to start occupying more space, respecting our own ideology. I would also like the 2019 event to inform the whole world what the small and medium producers do to produce fine aroma cocoa. The big events like the WCF Partnership Meeting, through its power of communication, can show where the fine aroma cocoa comes from, how the small producers grow it and how the whole process of production works.
(Thank you to Johanna Renckens, Rikolto, for the Lupita Intriago Mera interview and to Falguni Guharay, WCF, for the translation from Spanish.)