A STORY ON FARMING
"Through Cocoa Life, We Are Able To Expand Our Knowledge About New Farming Techniques And Learn To Master Good Agricultural Practices."
By Amadou Ouattara, cocoa farmer
Amadou Ouattara, a 52-year-old cocoa farmer and father of 11 children ages 3 to 22, is a member of ECAM, a large cooperative of more than 900 farmers participating in the Cocoa Life program in Côte d'Ivoire. Here, Ouattara provides his insights on being a farmer in Côte d'Ivoire and the impact of the program on his village and his family:
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I belong to a family of several generations of cocoa farmers: Both my father and grandfather cultivated cocoa, and I have been doing so since I was 17 years old. My daily work starts at 8 a.m. and continues until midday, when I take a break at home, especially during a hot day. I resume in the afternoon at 3 p.m. and work until 6 p.m. The daily tasks I accomplish consist mainly of harvesting pods, breaking them to extract the cocoa beans, pruning my trees, maintaining the soil, and improving the fertility of the land.
Cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire face a variety of problems, including soil degradation and plant diseases. The cocoa trees are old and the soil fertility depletes as we grow the same crop on it over 40 years. Productivity falls, and we do not have enough access to compost and fertilizer. We also lack access to planting materials [seeds and seedlings]. Through Cocoa Life trainings, we learn pruning techniques that have raised the quantity and quality of the cocoa harvested. Prior to the Cocoa Life trainings, there were cocoa tree diseases that I didn't know how to treat. Now, I know methods to protect my trees from the diseases, and that has increased my harvest. Before joining the Cocoa Life program, I was producing 350 kilograms of cocoa per hectare. Today, after two and a half years in the program, my yield has almost doubled, to 600 kilos per hectare.
For years, many cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire were selling their produce to individual buyers at prices unfavorable to farmers. Due to Cocoa Life and CARE International, more farmers joined the partner farmer organization and sell cocoa under better terms of trade, with premiums and volumes agreed upon up front.
All of my children, eight boys and three girls, are in school. I would like for my children to follow in my footsteps and become cocoa farmers. With help from the Cocoa Life program, we have increased yields and are working together to build a thriving and prospering community.
FROM OUR PARTNER SOLIDARIDAD
"We create programs as part of Cocoa Life to help cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire invest in their farms and grow their small businesses. The program starts with inspiring young adults to pursue cocoa farming in their own communities as an alternative to moving to big cities to look for employment. We also increase access for youth to learn life skills, such as leadership development, financial literacy, and business principles, empowering them to build sustainable farming communities."
Ahmadou Cis, Solidaridad Country Representative, Côte d'Ivoire