Posted on December 09 2021
It is frequently forgotten that African countries cultivate over a half of the world’s cocoa supply.
Ghana alone boasts over 800,000 cocoa farms, with 60% of farmers fully relying on cacao industry for their main income. The cheap cost of labour and the resulting high demand has driven many to expand their farms into the forest areas, prompting rapid deforestation and climate change. But with cocoa being sensitive and susceptible to environmental changes, the farm expansion has also started to affect its harvest, putting the already strained farmers in a tougher situation. To deal with the challenges of cocoa farming and to help reduce the environmental footprint of their work, many began to unionise. And this is how the Forest Friendly Cocoa initiative came about.
Ngoleagorbu Cocoa Farmers’ Union (NGOCFU) is one of the cocoa farmer cooperatives located on the outskirts of the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone. The name itself, ’Ngoleagorbu’, means ‘We who live at the edge of the forest’. Their location and connection to the forrest put them in a unique position to get involved in an innovative pilot program which would make cocoa harvesting and supply chain more sustainable. Titled the Forest Friendly Cocoa Vision, the initiative is about working together sustainably to improve the livelihoods of the farmers, and environmental justice.
Under the Forest-Friendly approach, cocoa is fermented at village-level, then following strict quality checks, it is weighed and transported to Kenema to NGOCFU’s warehouse. NGOCFU farmers don’t use artificial fertilisers or pesticides to improve the quality of their beans. They work in a multi-stakeholder collaboration with international and national partners, including Divine Chocolate, to secure an easier access to global markets to get a fair price for their high quality product. In 2020 Ngoleagorbu Cocoa Farmers’ Union (NGOCFU) has successfully exported 20 metric tonnes of Forest-Friendly, Fairtrade-certified cocoa to Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The deal became a major milestone for the farmer-led organisation, especially in the context of greater ownership by marginalised producers and the decolonisation of trade.
Divine Chocolate is a global Fairtrade chocolate company which has long been a pioneer in the industry. The launch of the the first Fairtrade Forest Friendly chocolate bar venture marks a new chapter in the company’s journey to make a meaningful change in the community of cocoa farmers, which co-own the company. Divine was established in 1998 by Kuapa Kokoo, a co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana. While the company was later acquired by Ludwig Weinrich GmbH & Co. KG (Weinrich), Kuapa Kokoo retained its 20% stake, and continue to have board representation. The company’s business model, which facilitates its close involvement with the cocoa farmer communities in Africa, is surely one of the key ingredients of its success.
The new Forest-Friendly range comes in two flavours, 70% Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt, and is now exclusively available at Six and Sons. Divine Chocolate is made with high-quality natural ingredients and from organic fairtrade cocoa, which gives it a deliciously rich flavour. All their chocolate products are palm oil free, soy free, and GMO free. The bars are produced by Ludwig Weinrich GmbH & Co in Germany, whose factory has been ‘climate-neutral’ since 2016. This means that with each purchase you not only improve the livelihood of the cocoa farmer communities of Africa, but also contribute to environmental justice worldwide.
For a short time you can TASTE TEST the forest friendly duo at the Six and Sons store in Amsterdam.