Cocoa Farming in Africa: The Truth
Gathering cocoa beans
Where in Africa is cocoa farmed?
Unripe cocoa beans on a tree
Products Made from Cocoa Beans
What is the process of cocoa farming?
The process of cocoa farming involves several stages, from planting to harvesting. The first stage involves planting the cocoa seedlings in a nursery, where they are nurtured for about six months. The seedlings are then transplanted to the main farm, where they grow for about three years before they start producing cocoa pods. Cocoa pods, which contain cocoa beans, grow on the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree. The pods take about six months to mature before they are ready for harvesting. After harvesting, the cocoa pods are split open, and the beans are extracted and fermented for about a week before they are dried in the sun. The dried cocoa beans are then packaged and shipped to chocolate manufacturers around the world.
Organic cocoa beans sun drying on a farm
How long does it take to farm cocoa?
Cocoa farming is not a quick process; it takes patience and persistence. From planting to harvesting, cocoa farming can take between three to five years before the farmers can start earning income. The life span of a cocoa tree is between 20 to 30 years, and during this period, the tree can produce cocoa pods twice a year.
Who is the biggest exporter of cocoa in Africa?
Ghana and Ivory Coast are the largest exporters of cocoa in Africa, and together, they export more than half of the world’s cocoa beans. In 2019/2020, Ghana exported approximately 883,000 metric tons of cocoa beans, while Ivory Coast exported about 2.1 million metric tons. Cocoa exports generate significant revenue for both countries, with Ivory Coast earning about $3.4 billion in cocoa exports in 2020.
Success stories in cocoa farming in Africa
Despite the challenges faced by small-scale cocoa farmers in Africa, some have managed to succeed in this industry. One such success story is the Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate company. The company was founded in the Netherlands in 2005 and sources its cocoa beans from Ghana and Ivory Coast. Tony’s Chocolonely works closely with cocoa farmers, ensuring they receive fair prices for their products and promoting sustainable farming practices. Another successful cocoa farming project is the Cocoa Abrabopa Association in Ghana. The project was initiated by the World Cocoa Foundation and provides training and resources to cocoa farmers to improve their farming practices and increase their productivity.
The dark side of cocoa farming
The world of cocoa farming is not all sweetness and light; it has a dark side too. Child labor is a significant issue in the cocoa farming industry, with thousands of children working on cocoa farms in Africa. Many of these children are forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions, and they do not receive an education. The chocolate industry has been under pressure to address this issue, and some chocolate manufacturers have committed to sourcing their cocoa beans from certified fair-trade farms
Cocoa operation in Côte d’Ivoire
The Process of Starting Your Cocoa Farm
If you are interested in growing cocoa in Africa, there are some important things that you should know before getting started. In this blog, we will discuss the steps involved in starting a cocoa farm in Africa.
1) Research the Climate and Soil Conditions
Cocoa trees require specific climate and soil conditions to grow properly. The ideal temperature range for cocoa is between 18°C and 32°C, and it requires an annual rainfall of at least 1,000mm. It is also important to ensure that the soil is well-drained and has a pH range between 6.0 and 7.5. Before starting a cocoa farm, it is important to research the specific climate and soil conditions of the region where you plan to grow your crops.
2) Obtain Land and Seedlings
Once you have identified a suitable region for growing cocoa, the next step is to obtain land and seedlings. Cocoa seedlings can be obtained from local nurseries or through a cocoa-growing cooperative. It is important to choose high-quality seedlings that are disease-resistant and have a high yield potential. In addition, you will need to prepare the land by clearing any vegetation and tilling the soil.
3) Plant the Seedlings
After obtaining the seedlings and preparing the land, the next step is to plant the seedlings. Cocoa trees should be planted in rows, with a spacing of at least 3 meters between each tree. It is important to ensure that the trees are planted at the correct depth and that the soil is properly packed around the roots. It is also important to provide the seedlings with sufficient water and fertilizer to ensure proper growth.
4) Manage Pests and Diseases
Cocoa trees are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, including cocoa pod borer, black pod, and swollen shoot. It is important to monitor the trees regularly and take steps to control any outbreaks of pests or diseases. This may involve using pesticides or other control measures, as well as pruning and removing infected trees.
The Future of Cocoa Farming in Africa
Despite the challenges faced by cocoa farmers in Africa, the future of cocoa farming looks bright. With the increasing demand for chocolate around the world, there is a growing market for high-quality cocoa beans. Additionally, more chocolate manufacturers are committing to sourcing their cocoa beans from certified fair-trade farms, ensuring that farmers receive fair prices for their products. Governments and organizations are also working to support cocoa farmers, providing training, resources, and infrastructure to help them improve their farming practices and increase their productivity.