Co-op portraits

Co-op portraits

Known as ‘Mama Cocoa’ by the farmers she works with, Anne-Marie is Fairtrade’s regional cocoa manager for the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and has over 10 years’ experience in the industry. She tells us about the benefits of buying Fairtrade, and our collective responsibility to protect the environment

Cocoa farming is labour-intensive, with farmers putting in every effort to ensure they have a sustainable crop yield. A normal day involves getting up at 6am, walking a long distance to the farm and then spending around six hours planting, pruning or harvesting, depending on the season.

‘Deforestation is a critical issue in the Ivory Coast. It’s a major cause of climate change, which, in turn, is affecting which areas are suitable for cocoa production. What’s more, extreme weather such as high temperatures and droughts can reduce the cocoa yield, lead to crop diseases and increase the cost of production — all of which contribute to poverty in the area. It’s another reason why looking after the planet is so important.

‘Buying Fairtrade from Co-op helps to promote sustainability and protect the environments in which farmers live, as well as empowering the farmers themselves. This is a gradual process, though. It takes time to change people’s minds at all levels — consumers, traders and even farmers.

‘In the Ivory Coast, we’re learning to adapt to climate change, funded in part by the Fairtrade Premium (an additional sum of money we’re able to use as we see fit to improve conditions in our community). The focus in many co-operatives here is on reforestation, through the planting of timber and shade trees (to help prevent the fruit from overheating). We’ve also had water points and schools built, thanks to the Premium.

‘This means that Co-op customers who buy Fairtrade are not just changing lives now, but helping future generations in the Ivory Coast too.’