Cocoa Farmers Band Together For Profits

The members of the Muoho Cocoa Farmer Group are hard at work, even as the sound of their laughter echoes through the cocoa forest. They sit around a huge mound of harvested cocoa pods. Each one must be broken open to remove the pulp and beans inside, a job that requires hours of tedious work. But this cooperative makes light of the task ahead by placing a can of sardines atop the pile.

“We love sardines,” a group member says. “The worker who removes the pod that causes the can to drop, gets to take it home.”

As if on cue, a roar goes up as the sardine can hits the ground. There are cheers and smiles of encouragement all around.

Working as a community clearly brings joy to the 2-year-old cooperative located in the heart of western Ghana’s cocoa growing region. Ghana’s economy relies on cocoa and with world demand increasing, it is a booming market. Even so, several years ago these farmers struggled to earn a living from their cocoa. Now, with TechnoServe’s support, they are improving their farming practices and generating higher yields. In the two years that farmers have accessed supplies to improve the health of their farms, some members have seen their production increase from a single 141-pound bag to five bags on a 1-acre farm.

TechnoServe is helping to build a culture of cooperation among smallholders in Ghana.

As a key partner in the WCF Cocoa Livelihoods Program, TechnoServe is helping thousands of farmers like the members of the Muoho cooperative to increase their incomes from cocoa. The program is a regional initiative, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), that seeks to double the incomes of 200,000 cocoa households in West Africa within 10 years by improving productivity, cocoa quality and market efficiency.

TechnoServe is working across Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to connect farmers with credit for supplies such as fertilizers and pesticides, which can revitalize their cocoa trees and more than double their yields. Our successful credit strategy is built upon a risk-sharing mechanism that ensures the farmers, their suppliers and the companies that buy their cocoa all have a financial stake in the success of the program.

TechnoServe is helping to build a culture of cooperation among smallholders in Ghana, where cocoa farmers typically operate individually rather than in business groups. We are working with groups like the Muoho cooperative not only to access and use farming supplies properly, but to function more effectively as a business group. This year, 18 of the 30 members of the Muoho group participated in the credit program, and more are expected to join in the next growing season.

“Unless you join the cooperative, no one comes to your aid,” says one member. “TechnoServe provides us with access to resources.”

Linda Lorenzetti contributed reporting to this story.