In 2009 Abrabopa – which means ‘better life’ in the local language – became the first UTZ certified association in Ghana. Although it took some time to convince the government and authorities that certification was a positive move for the industry, management were sure from the beginning that it would sit well with their aims of improving farmer income, productivity and community.
“We chose UTZ because our research indicated that there was good demand for UTZ cocoa beans, and so we wanted to have a strong position in that market,” says Executive Secretary Eliseus Opoku-Boamah. “Also, everyone was talking about sustainable cocoa production, and we wanted to be part of that buzz and assure customers that they could secure their sustainable cocoa through us.”
Why certification works
The move helped the association to grow to today’s 13,111 members – all UTZ certified – who sell mostly to Europe and the US, with plans to expand to Asia. “It works for us because there are certain standards that UTZ requires that help with management of the farm and therefore increases productivity and income. There’s also a transparent procurement process at farmer level, where you can ensure the traceability of cocoa from our farmers,” says Eliseus.
The premium attached to sales of UTZ cocoa has also brought benefits, with the association putting in place a premium development plan that sees a share of the premium going directly to members as a cash payment, with the remainder invested in the association as a whole.
Management and members at Abrabopa are looking to the future by going beyond certification, and are always on the lookout for new innovations to support their members. They are currently looking at introducing testing equipment to carry out residue-level testing to meet Japanese requirements, and have introduced ‘fine flavor’ development, setting up a flavor lab to help farmers test the different kinds of available cocoa, and make a judgment on which they will produce.
Abrabopa is the only organization in Ghana that offers a pension scheme to support cocoa farmers and their dependents as they get older, and they are also reducing cash transactions by focusing on electronic payments and mobile banking.
Over the next five years Abrabopa aims to grow to 25,000 members and increase production to 25,000 metric tons, with a focus on five impact points: assured traceability, continuing to improve farmers’ income, increased productivity and yields, and developing strong cocoa communities by investing the UTZ premium in community projects such as improved drinking water and building clinics and schools.
“Our main aim is give a proposition to our customers and the industry as a whole that if you partner with us your supply will be secure and you can impact on small farmers’ income and productivity,” says Eliseus. “We believe that building a strong independent organization will allow us to achieve all these things.”
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