The Nitty Gritty
Most Recent Visit by Taza: March, 2018
Number of Farmers: 695
Number of Female Farmers: 165
Numbers of Hectares Certified Organic: 1,514
Total Cacao Exported: 747 MT
Villages Belonging to ABOCFA: 13
Members of ABOCFA Executive Committee: 7
Annual volume purchased by Taza: 50.4 metric tons
Average price paid by Taza*: $2,800 per metric ton
The farmer association ABOCFA is a pioneer of sustainable cacao production in Ghana. Since its formation in 2008, the organization has doubled its membership, become the country’s first farmer group with both Organic and Fair Trade certification, and consistently delivered high quality cacao. When we began considering cacao outside of Latin America for the first time in Taza’s history, I wanted to find the perfect partner. ABOCFA’s track record looked promising on paper, but I needed to meet the farmers in person to be certain I’d found a match.
When I arrived in the village of Aponoapono, ABOCFA’s Manger Stephen and the Executive Committee - the seven-member governing board of farmers elected by their peers - greeted me at their office. After a warm round of introductions, we packed into trucks to visit the hamlet of Osota and the local chief, Nene Chaty Kwaoyumo III. Chief Nene received us in a comfortable hut with photos of his ancestors framed on the walls. We exchanged greetings and I explained the reason for my visit, presenting Discs and Amaze Bars as gifts. Over palm wine and drumming, the Chief gave his blessing to my stay. I was welcome to spend the week in the community.
Over the next several days, Stephen and the Committee members brought me to cacao farms and introduced me to growers. I learned that the custom is for neighbors to help one another during the harvest, with the host responsible for providing food for the day. Once the cacao pods are cut open and the fruit-covered beans removed, they are piled onto and covered in banana leaves to begin the fermentation process that will last 5-7 days. The last step in cacao processing involves drying the beans on raised wooden beds under the sun.
I also spent time learning about the West African labor issues I’d read about. Stephen and his team have built close relationships with local schools where they coordinate workshops for students and parents to educate around age-appropriate farm activities (i.e. building cacao fermentation heaps after school) versus dangerous ones (i.e. using machetes to open cacao pods.) Through partnership with the child welfare non-profit the International Cocoa Initiative and their long-time buyer Tony’s Chocolonely, ABOCFA proactively addresses any instances of unsafe work through a combination of family resources and training that rewards transparency and addresses core issues of poverty and lack of education.
In general, I found the Association members to be thoughtful, generous, and deeply hospitable throughout my stay. From Jollof to Fufu, they made sure I ate plenty of delicious food, which culturally is an important way of welcoming a guest. I also appreciated the dynamic of the Executive Committee, where two women - Juliette and Janet - have served for years as the Treasurer and Vice Treasurer, and where the General Manager Stephen, despite having more formal education than the farmers for whom he works, shows genuine respect and humility in their presence.
In short, our time together showed me that ABOCFA would make an exceptional Direct Trade partner. As importantly as growing an organic, deliciously fudgy cacao bean, the Association shares Taza’s commitment to transparency and to building a more sustainable and ethical cacao and chocolate industry. With one year of partnership between us, I am confident that ABOCFA and Taza Chocolate have many more ahead of us.
*Price Paid by Taza is on FOB terms and equal to the negotiated fixed price or to the negotiated premium plus the world market price on the day the contract is closed.