Sierra Leone Becomes Fairtrade Producer

Divine Chocolate, my favorite chocolate maker, has done it again. They have just ordered the  first fairtrade cocoa to come from the West African Country of Sierra Leone. Eight years after the end of its brutal civil war, with its economy still recovering, the farmers belonging to Kpeya Agricultural Enterprise (KAE) will enjoy the benefits of fairtrade.

Unlike in Ghana, the cocoa sector in Sierra Leone is free for all with little regulation. Anyone can be a cocoa trader and the farmers are often at the trader’s mercy with little information about world market prices. Not that such information will always help. To overcome this situation, about 1,200 farmers, organized in 50 village committees, have formed KAE and achieved fairtrade certification.

Cocoa is still a small part of Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector, occupying only about 42,000 hectares. The disruption of the agricultural economy due to the civil war has also disrupted the transfer of knowledge about cocoa cultivation. With the help of Twin Trading, the FAO and other organizations, the farmers of KAE have learned how to properly process their cocoa to achieve optimal quality for the world market.

The project is also a great example of South-South solidarity. Forty-five percent of Divine chocolate is owned by the member farmers of Kuapa Kokoo. They could have objected to this new source of fairtrade beans as it has the potential to cut into their deliveries. But as Sophi Tranchell, Divine’s Managing Director points out: “This move builds on the advances made by Fairtrade and is an example of certified farmers being in a position to help and support their fellow farmers in other regions and countries. As Kuapa co-owns Divine and receives profits from Divine as well as the Fairtrade premium, supporting other farmers to access the Fairtrade market makes sense to them – and Divine’s mission has always been to improve the livelihoods of West African farmers. With this cocoa from KAE we are extending our reach beyond Ghana.”

Kudos to Divine and Kuapa Kokoo for this important step. It shows that sustainability, quality control and fairtrade can easily work hand in hand.

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