It is dry season in Accra when I travel to the region in southern Ghana at the end of November 2021. The air temperature is pleasantly hot, and the month records the sunniest days of the year. In the town of Mampong, I visit the very first Ghanaian cocoa plantation, established in 1879 by Tetteh Quarshie. He brought the first cocoa beans into the country at that time. Today, there are still two trees on the plantation that are over 140 years old. Cocoa pods still grow on the trees, but they can no longer be used for production. New cocoa trees are no longer planted on this land, but it has a high historical value and is often visited by tourists.
I am very touched to know that I was able to visit the place of origin of cocoa farming in Ghana. Since then, cocoa production has become widespread in the country. Around 800,000 tons of cocoa are produced here every year, making Ghana the world's second largest cocoa producer. More than 60,000 farmers are part of the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. The program strives for ecologically and socially responsible cultivation and supports the farmers, their families and their communities.
After visiting this historic plantation, I head further north inland to Kumasi, Ghana's largest city since 2014. On my journey I am accompanied by the friendly Kevin Bosson, who works as a local Sustainability Representative Africa for Lindt & Sprüngli. During the long drive, I try to close my eyes a little – but it is hardly possible on the bumpy roads with lots of potholes. The distances between the sightseeing sites are long and the journey is exhausting, but the anticipation and interest prevail.
Arriving in the community of Mahamakrom, I meet cocoa farmer Dina Ofori. She is a member of the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. Dina tells me about her daily work – about the hurdles that have to be overcome, but also about the valuable support she receives from the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program (Portrait of Dina Ofori). On Dina's plantation, I try a fresh cocoa bean for the first time, where the pulp is sucked from the bean. It tastes incredibly fruity and refreshing! I can’t make any resemblance to the finished product chocolate yet. In contrast, Dina tries a LINDOR truffle I brought her for the first time. She also finds the chocolate very tasty, but above all very sweet. She is proud to have contributed to this good chocolate with her cocoa beans and gives me a warm smile. While I taste my first cocoa bean and Dina eats chocolate for the first time, we experience firsthand the main principle of the Farming Program: From bean to bar – from the origin of production to the finished product.
Later during my visit, I meet some local Farming Program Trainers who, in cooperation with Kevin Bosson, ensure that the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program and the associated support services are implemented in the best possible way. In Ghana, there are currently 378 such Trainers who are out in the field on behalf of the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program to support the farmers. The Program Trainers enlighten me about the challenges that cocoa farmers face. For example, there is an issue of declining fruit quality on older cocoa trees. These trees can no longer be used for cocoa production – but growing new trees takes a long time. In the meantime, the farmers don’t earn anything.
Another problem is illegal gold mining. In addition to cocoa cultivation, Ghana is also known for its gold reserves. Certain companies offer the farmers a lot of money for their land in order to dig for gold. This destroys the fertile soil and hazardous chemicals get into the drinking water of the communities. The goal of the local staff is to show the farmers that selling their land may bring them a large amount of money in the short term but is usually not a sustainable solution. Instead, the Program Trainers demonstrate the farmers the benefits of diversification – how they can use their land during times when cocoa crops are not being harvested, for example by growing vegetables or raising livestock. This allows them to sustain themselves throughout the year.
I say my goodbyes to Dina Ofori, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know as a strong woman and committed cocoa farmer. Together with the Farming Program Trainers and Kevin Bosson, my journey continues to a school that is also supported by the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. In the fight against child labor, the schools, some of which are very old and destroyed, are being rebuilt. The school we visited was already too outdated to renovate. For this reason, a completely new school was built for the community. The children are very happy to soon be able to go to school in a new and modern building. Since 2008, Lindt & Sprüngli has renovated 33 schools, benefiting over 4000 children.
As the last stage of my journey, I visit a warehouse where the cocoa beans are delivered from the fields and temporarily stored before they are transported to the port and exported. So-called depot keepers work in the warehouse. They unpack the beans into bags, stack them and label them with numbers so that it is possible to trace the beans back to the farmers. In addition, the first quality checks are already being carried out in the warehouse. Since 2020, 100% of our cocoa beans are traceable and externally verified. What amazes me the most is that the depot keepers can even guess the quality of the beans from the weight of the bags alone – if the bag is too heavy, it indicates that the beans are still too moist.
At the end of my visit, I take the opportunity to discover other beautiful spots of Ghana. Among others, I visit the Makola market, which is bustling with life. After almost ten days, I leave Ghana with many new insights and lasting memories. I am deeply impressed by the commitment of the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program Team, by the warmth of the cocoa farmers, and together with them we really do leave a lasting mark. Medase Kevin, Medase Farming Program, Medase Ghana! I am already looking forward to my next visit.