Germenia lives in the small community of Mendes da Silva, south of São Tomé town, deep in the tropical rainforest. She was born in 1975 and is married with five children, three boys and two girls, who are all in school. She has 2.5 hectares of land where she grows cocoa, and a number of other crops to feed the family and sell locally.
Like her fellow farmers in Mendes de Silva, she joined the Fairtrade and organic certified co-operative CECAQ-11 in 2009. She could see there were many benefits. She was first attracted by the fact that you get two payments from CECAQ-11 – an advance when you collect your wet cocoa, and the rest when the cocoa is fully dried and ready to export. With the extra income, she has been able to afford to send her children to school, and she has seen her village benefit from the farmers’ investment of the Fairtrade premium in better equipment and facilities for processing their cocoa.
Germenia says that women are encouraged to take more responsible roles within the co-op – but not all women want to do so. She was elected a few years ago as Treasurer of her local association, and she says she enjoyed it, but has now handed the role over to someone else. “Women are good at these things,” she says.
Asked what makes her happy, Germenia laughs and says “Eating more chocolate!”. On consideration though, she says, “it’s the community here that makes me happy. We are unified and as one.”
Rosa lives in Mendes da Silva, south of São Tomé town, deep in the tropical rainforest. She was born in 1979 and is married with three children aged 10 to 18, who are all in school. She farms 2.5 hectares of land.
She joined CECAQ-11, the Fairtrade and organic certified co-operative, in 2009. Previously she had only been able to sell her cocoa wet for a low price. With CECAQ-11 she can get an advance price for her wet cocoa, but also an additional payment when the cocoa is dry. The co-op also provides organic farming training, including how to graft new cocoa trees, organic approved inputs, cocoa seedlings, and loans.
With the extra income she can send her children to school and access healthcare, while she and her fellow farmers have invested the additional Fairtrade premium in developments in their village, such as good drying tables, and fencing around them to keep them secure.
“My family and my community make me happy,” she says. “Growing cocoa and earning more money would make me happy too!” she adds.
The biggest challenge she says faces is if any of the family get ill. They do have a health centre quite close by, but need to always have enough money to pay.
Rosa’s message to chocolate lovers discovering the Divine São Tomé range for the first time “the cocoa is natural, very delicious and high quality. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out!!”