We believe that the success and future of our business depends directly on the future of cocoa cultivation and the cocoa farming communities. Growing Great Chocolate™ aims at making cocoa cultivation a sustainable source of income for West African growers. More concretely, we’re working to improve cocoa crops and the earnings of the 60 participating farmer cooperatives, uniting more than 30,000 farmers.
Growing Great Chocolate builds on a 3-pronged approach to drive positive change. Cocoa bean quality, growing farmer income and growing quality of life.
The source of change: cocoa bean quality.
Cocoa is a complex crop that demands just the right climate conditions, a healthy soil and great care from dedicated farmers. In West Africa, where most of the world’s cocoa is grown, depleted soil, poor farming practices, ageing trees and ageing farmers have led to a decline in cocoa productivity.
To change that and turn cocoa into an attractive cash generating crop for more cocoa farmers, farmers are educated on cultivation practices for better yields, enabling a direct and sustainable source of income for cocoa farmers and their families.
Training in farmer field schools:
In farmer field schools, member farmers from participating cooperatives learn both theoretical principles and hands-on techniques that – if applied well – yield immediate crop results. The farmers are taught about plantation maintenance, soil management, tree care and complex cocoa processes, such as bean fermentation and drying. The result is clearly visible: crop yields have been steadily increasing. Furthermore, yields of top-grade cocoa beans are rising – the grade required for Finest Belgian Chocolate.
Planting new trees for the cocoa of tomorrow:
The care for trees and tree maintenance take the central stage in the farmer education. Understanding the importance of planting trees, they’ve established tree nurseries, where they grow cocoa trees and the taller shade trees on which cocoa trees depend to mature properly. Cocoa farmers can buy seedlings of both types at cost price and plant both for tomorrow’s cocoa and ecological diversity. Stimulating the farmers to plant new trees, contributes to the cocoa beans of tomorrow.
Direct partnerships with farmers, direct buying
Better crop yields directly boost farmer income and contribute to improving the livelihoods of West African cocoa farming families. Motivating farmers to keep their farms in good condition and to grow the quality beans we need in the years to come, guarantees their income on a long term base.
Yet we do more to make sure that the farmers get paid a fair price: partnered up with cocoa farmer cooperatives directly and excluding any form of middlemen, traders or chains in-between the farmers and us, this direct partnership enables us to introduce good agricultural practices, work together on crop quality, and of course, buy the cocoa beans directly from the cooperatives, thus supporting farmers to make a better income from cocoa.
Growing quality of life
One of the focuses of the Growing Great Chocolate™ programme is to improve access to education and basic healthcare in cocoa farming communities in West Africa. There is often a shortage of adequate schools, qualified teachers, medical facilities and supplies, clean water and energy sources.
The Growing Great Chocolate™ programme assists cooperatives to meet some of the basic health care needs of their farmer members. It sponsors and distributes mosquito nets throughout the year, co-organises the distribution of medical kits to cocoa farmers and sponsor vaccination campaigns in several cocoa growing communities.
As remote farming communities in West Africa often lack sufficient schools and qualified teachers, we understand the importance of schooling the children of cocoa farmers. The programme supports the organisation of training activities and sensitisation activities to raise awareness among farmers and co-op representatives about the issue of child labour.
The growing great chocolate programme, inaugurated a new secondary school in 2009. With the support of other partners, the centre also developed into a community learning centre to benefit hundreds more of all ages. In 2010 two rural school construction projects were initiated, in close partnership with two cooperatives and the local authorities. The schools opened up in 2011 and 2012.
This is only the start. It is our long-term goal to support participating cooperatives in building primary schools in cocoa farming communities that do not have their own. Every bar of our chocolate you buy automatically supports this programme and contributes to sustainable cocoa cultivation today and tomorrow.