Construction in Togo

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Founding a cocoa cooperative and gebana Togo comes with major challenges for both the farmers and gebana. But it’s worth it: the quantity of exclusive organic and fair-trade cocoa from Togo is continuously growing.

Cocoa tree

Cocoa from Togo is still a rarity. While other West African countries such as Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) have been among the largest cocoa exporters for years, this branch of agriculture has been underdeveloped in Togo, where one can hardly find organically grown and fair-trade cocoa.

The Beginnings

gebana has been active in Togo for 15 years. At first, we only sourced dried pineapples from the country. Cocoa was added a few years ago. We started with about 3 tonnes per year, which we sold to the Swiss cocoa refiner Max Felchlin AG. The cocoa has now been certified organic and the export quantity has increased by an impressive 150 tonnes per year – and still rising. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the cocoa farmers in Togo usually only have a few hectares of forested land, where they also plant cassava and maize for their own use in addition to cocoa and coffee.

First of all, gebana bought the cocoa beans from the farmers in cooperation with local partners and the existing structures, took over the organic certification and took care of the resale. But the increasing quantities soon required more structure. In addition, it was necessary for the Fair Trade certification that the farmers organise themselves into a cooperative.

Building a Cooperative

Establishing a cooperative brings the farmers some advantages, but also presents them with new challenges. The merger gives them a much stronger negotiating position with the buyers. They can also negotiate better pre-financing than if they were to apply individually. Moreover, they are more likely to apply for national agricultural support as a cooperative. On the other hand, 500 to 600 farmers must be coordinated and it must be ensured that everyone knows what rights and obligations concern them through organic and fair trade certification. It must also be decided who is responsible for which issues and how the money from the cooperative should be used.

That’s why we have helped to set up the cooperative over the past few years. It’s not an easy undertaking, because the democratic election of a board of directors already pushed the members of a hierarchical society to their limits. But the deed was eventually done. In March 2015 the fair trade certification could finally be carried out, and the SCOOPS cooperative has had the definitive certificate since September.


Founding gebana Togo

The new structure represents a change not only for the farmers, but also for gebana. Despite many years of activity in the country, gebana Togo was only founded in mid-2015. We integrated the local partners and their structures and took over all organizational duties from A to Z. The biggest challenge is timing. How do we get our employees to be in the village when the cocoa is harvested and fermented? If we miss this moment, the farmers may sell their goods to someone else who is there at the right time.

In order to solve the problem, we make advance payments to the cooperative. Together with the accountant of the cooperative, our coordinator Komlan Akpakli – who picks up the goods on-site – estimates in advance which village will deliver which amount in which week. This sum of money is then deposited to the village, so every farmer can be paid immediately when he delivers his goods.

Cocoa harvest in Togo

A New Warehouse

Making the growing amount of cocoa available for export also entails some logistical considerations. That’s why gebana Togo recently acquired a truck and a piece of land on which a warehouse will be built in the near future. The goal is that the cocoa from the villages be delivered there directly and dried again in the sun. It would then be re-sorted by discarding very small or deformed beans as well as pieces of wood and other undesirables. Only the perfect beans are packed in sacks and made available for export.

The fermentation of the beans will continue to take place at the farmers’ premises. Our partner Felchlin is satisfied with the traditional fermentation with banana leaves, so it would be a shame to take this important processing step away from the farmers.

First Employees

A lot will also change in terms of staffing. Around 20 seasonal workers will be employed during the harvest season, as well as agronomists to support and train the farmers and coordinators for logistics and financial flows. There is also a quality manager, a warehouse manager and a managing director.

But the new organization first has to prove itself in the current season! The main harvest started in October and so far we are confident that we can achieve the expected quantities without major quality problems. Keep your fingers crossed for our new chapter in Togo!

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