Saturday, 8 December 2012

Cocoa Fermentery

Woman carting water
While we were in the village, a series of meetings happened at our waspapa’s house and under the shade of a nearby tree. Our Papa was a respected leader in the community. The men of the village were discussing the building of a community owned cocoa fermentary. On the day we left, work had begun on laying the foundation.

Women carrying rocks
It really was a community driven project. Everyone had put in an amount towards the materials needing to be purchased. Everyone had also taken part in a small loan to make up the difference between what was raised and what was needed. On the first day the foundation was being worked on, women came to and from the site with their heavy loads of rocks or water (for mixing cement). The men were digging the footing for the foundation and securing the form for the concrete under the supervision of a carpenter.

Delivering rocks to where the foundation will be.
Most of the families in the community already have full grown productive cocoa trees. Most of the cocoa goes unharvested as they do not have easy access to a fermentary and there is no regular buyer for unfermented cocoa. Occasionally a buyer will come along the road and tell everyone the date of his return to purchase fresh picked cocoa. This happened once in our five weeks. All the families picked ripe beans and had them ready to sell for a small profit.

Working on the foundation
Once the fermentary is established, the community will buy the unfermented beans, ferment them and sell them on. The profits will be returned to the community. Then a harvest every two weeks and little wastage from the trees should be possible. Numerous local communities have a fermentary functioning successfully on this principle.

Finished Fermentery in another village
Within this I wondered if the cocoa would ever gain a fair trade label. They are too small a group to pursue such things, yet the cocoa is all grown on family land and sold by the community. The only reason there is sweaty labour involved in the process is that the climate is such that you wake up sweating. If children are part of the labour force it is because they are too young for school and gardens are an activity that all the family is involved in. I hope that the fair-trade label has room for such low level business.

All this cocoa, yet so little chocolate. All the beans are sold overseas. By the time they return as chocolate, the price has gone up considerably. 

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