Bitter or sweet trade for Africa’s cocoa farmers?

Africa currently produces 75–80 percent of all the raw cocoa beans consumed in the world. Photo: Center for International Forestry Research/Ollivier Girard


Scientist Peter Akong Minang says Africa is lagging behind on product certification but that investment can have positive impact.

The African continent is the biggest producer of some of the world’s most-loved commodities. But is it taking home its fair share? CIFOR’s Forests News caught up with World Agroforestry (ICRAF) scientists Peter Akong Minang and Dietmar Stoian at 2019’s World Congress on Agroforestry in Montpellier, France.

Part 1: Here’s what Akong Minang, ICRAF’s leader of Greening Tree and Crop Landscapes, had to say.



So Peter, in 2019, why agroforestry?

Well, for three important reasons […] agroforestry occupies 1 billion hectares in the world. It has the potential for capturing and storing 16 years of deforestation, so if it’s holding the equivalent of 16 years of deforestation then it is worth something to look at.

I think the second reason for us, especially in Africa […] is because agroforestry is the basis of […] 12–15 economies, and therefore it looks after livelihoods of millions of people; […] it’s actually important for enabling these countries to run.

And I think the third reason is that there is one land use that is capable of mediating between biodiversity loss and natural forest and farmland, and bringing back through an agroecological approach: agroforestry.

You mentioned in your presentation that Africa is a continent that is producing some of our most-loved commodities – cocoa, coffee – are the farmers taking home their fair share of the profits?

No, not at this time. I think there has been some improvements over the years but still poor farmers take a very, very small share of the global value of cocoa, in particular. Coffee, a little bit more, as certification has helped a little bit, but cocoa, we are between 12–20 percent maximum, of the global value of cocoa.

So Africa takes between 12–20 percent of the total global value chain of cocoa. How much does it produce?

Africa currently produces 75–80 percent of all the raw cocoa beans consumed in the world. So, if you compare that to 12–20 percent maximum, that tells it all.

That’s a lot of money leaving the continent.


So how can certification help?

The FairTrade certification has been a good part of this story. I think it’s helped a lot in enabling, first of all, companies, farmers and [other people] in reducing deforestation, that’s the first thing. That all [new] farms created on forest [land] are not acknowledged and recognised globally.

I think the second thing that it’s done is reduced child labour by bringing in some controls on child labour in cocoa farms; and so, many more children are now going to school; [certification] has incentivized that.

And I think the third thing it has done for coffee is that it has helped ensure a premium is paid to farmers. In cocoa, in a few places, yes, but there is a huge gap between certification of cocoa and the certification of coffee. Cocoa is lagging behind, coffee is a bit more advanced. Oil palm and rubber in Africa is really lagging behind, there is really very little certification going on at the moment. So we hope that with time there’ll be more changes, that Africa can catch up, and certification can be more agile, and a bit more responsive to the needs of the continent.


Join Dietmar Stoian in conversation next week in Part 2, as he focuses on certification and value chains in agroforestry.

Please note that some of the text has been slightly altered for better readability, without changing the meaning.




World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of science and development excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Leveraging the world’s largest repository of agroforestry science and information, we develop knowledge practices, from farmers’ fields to the global sphere, to ensure food security and environmental sustainability.ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


You may also like...