African farmers taking on big chocolate
Most West African cocoa producers are poor smallholders, who would like a bigger share of the industry's profit
In a little clearing in a Ghanaian forest, not far from where grapefruit-sized cocoa pods hang heavily from the trees, 67-year-old Yaa Asantewaa breaks into song. Dressed in a threadbare skirt and purple T-shirt, she dances to her uplifting lyrics: “If you want to buy fine cloth — it is cocoa. If you want a meaningful life — it is cocoa.”
Farmers have been singing variations of this song — about how planting cocoa will make you rich — for decades in Ghana, the world’s largest producer after neighbouring Ivory Coast. In the first decades of the 20th century, West African smallholders rushed into cocoa farming as if it were the new gold.