A farmers’ co-op on the island of São Tomé is producing a superior crop of beans to gain an advantage in the world market.
São Tomé and Príncipe was once among the world’s biggest cocoa producers but the industry has collapsed there over the past 40 years.
Today, farmers São Tomé are working to revive the crop’s reputation in the central African country, in the Gulf of Guinea, and have organised themselves into co-operatives with a shared pride in the excellence of their crop.
Charlotte Borger, of farmer-owned Divine Chocolate, wrote on her company’s blog: “Spending time with the members of the CECAQ-11 co-operative, we saw and heard evidence of this pride every day.
“Cocoa growing, especially on the steep slopes of the island, is a labour-intensive affair, but these farmers can see the benefit of being more meticulous and skilled in how they manage their farms.
“They have been trained in better pruning methods, in shade management (cocoa grows best in the humid shade of the rainforest canopy), and in grafting seedlings to combine quality with higher productivity.”
She added: “The farmers are developing their own improved version of amelonado, a sub-species of forastero, that delivers a distinctive depth of flavour with woody, spicy notes. Their care with harvesting, natural fermenting and drying ensure they are extracting the best from their beans, while the new techniques they are learning will help with the increased productivity they urgently need to meet demand, and grow their income.”