Harvesting cocoa for Divine Chocolate

The fourth post from Emilie Persson in Assin Akonfudi: 

John Dornu arrives at his farm

John Dornu is the Recorder in Akonfudi – the person elected to be in charge of collecting the cocoa from the Kuapa farmers. He’s been a member of Kuapa Kokoo since 2008. He is thirty-three years old and lives with his wife Doris and their stepdaughter. John has a big farm of thirty-six acres, which his father bought already in 1964, and in 1969 he planted cocoa on it.

Last week I was able to join him to see the first step of harvesting his cocoa. We started off in the village and walked for almost an hour before we reached the farm. The landscape was green and we walked along paths between other farms, where orange, lemon, cassava, cocoa, oil palm, corn and garden vegetables where grown.

When we got there, I was exhausted because of the long walk in the sun – this is a walk John does several times a week. John usually goes to the farm at 7:30 am and comes back around 3:30 pm. When the working days are long, he has to cook his meals on the farm. The first and last thing he does is to say a short prayer, thanking God for allowing him to reach the farm safely and to help him to do a good job. John works at his farm at least three times a week, but never on Fridays, which traditional are a ‘taboo day’ to work on the farm.

John with his cocoa pods

John Dornu harvesting his cocoa

John explains that on his farm he has four varieties of cocoa. They all look different and the colour and size varies from long purple, to round and yellow to oval and orange. It is really a wonderful sight to see the cocoa growing from the trees. The four varieties are Tetteh Quarshie (the name of the man who first brought cocoa to Ghana) and the newer sorts that are called Hybrid, Amizona and Asotem. John says that the flavour does not vary between the four varieties, but that Hybrid, for example, grows faster and gives fruit already after two years, compared to the Tetteh Quarshie cocoa that needs almost ten years before you can harvest the cocoa.

When we reach the cocoa farm, John starts using the machete (a long metal knife) and a long stick with a hook in the end to cut down the cocoa pod from the trees. The cocoa pods grow directly from the stem of the tree or hangs from the branches.

John crossing the water

Next John opens the cocoa pods, takes out the cocoa beans and ferments the cocoa for at least five days, before it can be dried in the sun. When we walk back to Akonfudi, we take a shortcut, but because it has been raining last night the road is flooded and we need to walk through knee-deep water for some hundreds of metres. Children going to school, farmers attending to their farms and everybody else living just outside the village use the road. Not only do the cocoa farmers have to walk far distances to reach their farms, but they also have to carry heavy loads on their head when bringing the fermented cocoa back to their house to dry it, and also have to walk in water or along poor roads.

It is not easy to be a cocoa farmer, yet people do it with pride.

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