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23 May 2019

The benefits of joining a co-op, as explained by a farmer

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Germenia is a cocoa farmer who 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 six acres 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 da Silva, she joined the Fairtrade and organic certified co-operative CECAQ-11 in 2009. CECAQ-11 supplies the cocoa for Divine's 85% dark chocolate organic line.

Upon joining the co-op, Germenia 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 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 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 further consideration, though, she says, “It’s the community here that makes me happy. We are unified and as one.”

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