This is the first in a series of interviews with cocoa farmers from Côte D’Ivoire. Nick is one of 1336 UTZ certified farmers in the CAFHS cooperative, which was one of the first two cooperatives in the UTZ program five years ago. Our representative in Côte D’Ivoire, Siriki Diakité, hears his story.
Siriki Diakité: Hi Nick, nice to meet you! Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Kouassi N’Guessan Nick: I live about 12km from Daloa, where I work with my brother on our cocoa plantation of around 4 hectares. But that’s not the only thing I do! I also grow vegetables, like tomatoes. And through the profits from cocoa I made two fish ponds, of 40 by 25 meters each. My next plan is to build a farm for chickens. If business is good, I want to start it this year. And aside from all that, I love football! I like to organize football tournaments and my favorite team is Chelsea.
You said you work with your brother – does all your family work in cocoa?
In my family, we have always had cocoa – my father was a cocoa farmer, and so was his father before that. But not all my family is in cocoa. Through the profits we have made, two of my brothers carried on their education after school. One of my brothers is in his second year studying law at the university in Abidjan, and the other is already working as a policeman.
What kind of changes have you seen since joining the UTZ program?
Many! Since we are in the project the cocoa farm has produced more: we had 1.2 tons in 2011-2012, and then 1.825 tons in 2013-2014. In this way the UTZ program allowed me to build my house! And it also means we can afford gas for cooking.
That’s because of what I learned at training and the field schools. I always kept the plantation clean and tidy, but I learned that we must also cut the shoots, cut the dead branches, and rid the fields of any diseased pods for the field to produce well.
My trees date from 1998. As those trees stop producing I am replacing them with the improved variety CNRA, which is more productive. Before going into the project, I did not know about the different varieties.
And of course the first positive result of the program is the premium.
How could things be improved for cocoa farmers in Côte D’Ivoire?
I think it is very important that small producer groups are helped to get income in many ways, not only through cocoa but through income diversification projects such as market gardening. To do this, it would help farmers if they had more access to inputs like fertilizers.
It would also help me a lot if the road was improved leading to our farm, so that we can take the cocoa to the cooperative more easily.
What does the future hold?
If I make a little more money, I plan to install a solar panel to illuminate the camp and watch television to follow the news.