Global Development Institute Blog

 Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng and Emefa Tonorgbevi Awuku

There’s more than meets the eye in the world of cocoa and chocolate. Beyond the sweetness of your favourite chocolate bar lies a complex web of challenges and opportunities, particularly for those at the very beginning of the journey – the cocoa farmers. Today, we want to share a glimpse into our new journal article titled Understanding Sustainable Value Capture for Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers on the Cocoa-Chocolate Value Chain. Don’t worry; we promise to keep it simple!

The Cocoa Dilemma

Cocoa farming is a way of life for many in Ghana. It’s the source of livelihood, providing income, employment, and sustenance. But here’s the twist – despite its global demand and the delight it brings to chocolate lovers worldwide, the livelihoods of cocoa farmers remain far from sweet.

Our paper dives deep into this issue. We explore the challenges cocoa farmers face in Ghana, who contribute significantly to the world’s cocoa production. Poverty looms large, directly threatening the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 1 – eradicating poverty.

The Bigger Picture

Why is this a concern? Well, when cocoa farmers struggle to make ends meet, it sets off a chain reaction. Some may turn to alternative cash crops, leading to changes in land use. Others might resort to illegal mining activities, harming the environment. Moreover, the global supply of cocoa beans may dwindle as farmers seek better opportunities elsewhere.

The Complex Challenge

We know that existing literature has touched upon the limited earnings of cocoa farmers. But here’s the catch: understanding the full scope of this issue requires us to unravel the intricate web of local and international interests. These interests sometimes work against the betterment of farmers’ lives. So, what’s going on behind the scenes?

Our Approach

Our study employs two valuable frameworks – the Sustainable Livelihood Framework and the Global Production Network. These tools help us dissect the challenges and opportunities faced by Ghana’s cocoa farmers. By using them, we uncover some significant obstacles on the path to sustainable incomes.

The Power Imbalance

One major hurdle is the power imbalance within the cocoa-chocolate value chain. Imagine a scale where one side is loaded with multinational corporations and the other with individual smallholder farmers. The weight is undoubtedly skewed. This power imbalance impacts how much cocoa farmers can earn from their hard work.

Embeddedness in Firm Networks

Another issue is the embeddedness of cocoa farmers within firm networks. This means they are intricately connected with various companies and organisations involved in the cocoa-chocolate industry. While this may sound good in theory, it often means that farmers have limited control over their own destinies. Their livelihoods become entwined with the interests of these larger players.

A Way Forward

We believe that understanding these challenges is the first step towards finding sustainable solutions. That’s why we offer policy recommendations, including one that calls for decommodifying cocoa beans. This would empower farmers to set fair prices for their produce, allowing them to negotiate on an equal footing with other stakeholders.

Join the Discussion

We’re excited to share our research with you and equally eager to hear your thoughts. Your insights and feedback are invaluable as we strive to find ways to improve the lives of Ghana’s cocoa farmers and contribute to a more equitable cocoa-chocolate industry.

Explore the Full Paper

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, you can access our full academic paper. It’s open access so that everyone can read it.

Stay Informed with Cocoa Diaries

Oh, and before we wrap up, we have another treat for you. One of the authors, Kwame, has a newsletter called Cocoa Diaries, where he delves into the fascinating world of cocoa and chocolate.

Thank you for joining us on this journey to understand the cocoa-chocolate value chain better. We can work towards a sweeter future for cocoa farmers and chocolate enthusiasts worldwide.

Stay curious and keep the cocoa love alive!

Kwame and Emefa from Ghana received the Global Development Institute Merit Scholarship in 2018 and 2019, respectively. They share a deep passion for topics such as sustainability, global value chains, agriculture, rural development, rural informal sector and smallholder farmers’ empowerment.

Photo by Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash




Note:  This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.