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In Ghana, cocoa farmers trapped in a poverty trap


The ritual is daily. At dusk, 19-year-old Ahwah and her little sister Saoude weave their way down a narrow dirt road towards a pool of stagnant water at the bottom of a small valley in southwestern Ghana, not far from the village from Sefwi Camp. The two young girls are loaded with gigantic cans – 30 liters – which they hastily fill and place on their heads, before starting the ascent of a steep hill, covered with cocoa trees and frakés, large tropical trees. . “This water is the one we use for all our needs”explains Ahwah, grimacing under the weight of the load.

After fifteen minutes of walking, they approach their family home, a Spartan construction in dried earth, with a corrugated metal roof, surrounded by hens and a few goats. They live there, in promiscuity, with their parents, their five sisters and a newborn, away from the communities of producers. They are almost forgotten, at the very bottom of the cocoa production chain, in this case that of Barry Callebaut, a Swiss giant with a turnover of nearly 8 billion euros, world number one in the manufacture of chocolate products. and trading juggernaut.

In the shade of banana trees, Ahwah’s mother, Salamata, folds up the bamboo mat on which beans have dried all day, this month of November 2022. The life of Ahwah and her family is punctuated by production of cocoa, the maintenance of trees, the cutting of pods. “In the morning, after tidying up the house, we prepare the meal before going to the farm, then we help where we are asked. »

Salamata, a cocoa farmer, outside her house in Sefwi Camp (southwestern Ghana), November 19, 2022.

Salamata is concerned. The five hectares of his farm produce less and less. Aging trees, fungal diseases, soil depletion particularly affect Ghana. “This year, I will only be able to draw about ten bags from it”, she laments. It’s a meager booty that Salamata will receive.

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In 2022, the price of a 62.5 kilo bag was set at 800 cedis (around 68 euros) by Cocobod, the Ghanaian state body regulating the cocoa market. According to the NGO Fairtrade International, this price is 42% lower than the living income that a family of producers should receive to access basic needs: food, water, health, transport, education.

According to Oxfam, the net income of Ghanaian farmers fell by 16.4% between 2020 and 2022. The 21% increase in the price of a bag of cocoa “farmside”, decided in 2022 by Cocobod, was not enough to offset the effects of very high inflation in Ghana (+ 52% in 2022) and the explosion in the cost of inputs, starting with fertilizers, only a part of which is subsidized by the State. “We have received almost no aid to buy fertilizers, and not even a bonus for our production”, notes, bitter, Salamata.

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