ORGANIC & FAIR TRADE COCOA IN SAO TOME
São Tomé and Príncipe is often held up as an example in political terms — elections conducted peaceful and orderly with regular political changeover — but less in economic terms. Indeed, cocoa production, the main resource of the island fell sharply after the departure of the Portuguese in 1975. It must be said that except colonial buildings called Roças — now most of them in ruins — Portuguese entrepreneurs are gone, leaving a population of farm workers poorly trained and 90% illiterate.
In 1975, the young state performs a first agrarian reform by nationalizing all lands and creates fifteen large cocoa management companies. The system works well for the first few years, then slowly decreases until 1983, a big drought cause a major crisis. The state has to help one by one all the national companies.
In 1998, companies go bankrupt and the state decides to launch with the World Bank, its second agrarian reform. All the land of the two islands is fragmented into plots of one hectare and distributed to the inhabitants. Each family gets an average of two hectares and in each village is created an agricultural association with few persons trained to accompany people in the work of their land. However, after a few years, only a dozen of the 120 associations are making profit.
The French company KAOKA puts up with the Ministry of Agriculture a cooperative of organic and fair-trade production. Four years is required to implement the project and in 2005 takes place the first export by the CECAB. 67 tons of dry cocoa goes to Carpentras (France) headquarters of KAOKA organization.
Ten years later, the cooperative is a success. With the export of 1,020 tons of cocoa in 2015, it represents 40% of the export of cocoa from the island, which totals 2,500 tons. Furthermore it exceeded the figure of 800 tonnes enabling it to be free of aid; all operating expenses are paid by the production. However, we are still far from 1930s numbers where São Tomé and Príncipe was a major exporter in the world with 36 000 tonnes per year.
+ photographs of Cocoa in Sao Tomé - Full text available on request