The journey to become a cocoa farmer and the impact of COVID-19
Deborah is not your typical cocoa farmer. She’s 29, university educated, single and with a voracious appetite to transform cocoa farming in Ghana, but she wasn’t always proud to be a farmer.
"Farming used to be very tough and unrewarding. I day-dreamed of becoming a nurse. None of my siblings chose to become a farmer. "
When Deborah got admission to Senior High School, her dream to become a nurse changed. "When I went to Senior High School and started attending Science class, I saw so many students, most of whom looked like they were from affluent homes. I felt I didn’t belong there. When I started Agriculture class, it was a small class - only 22 students, mainly with children of cocoa farmers, I was more comfortable with my own kind."
An interest in sustainable farming
When she graduated in 2014 with a degree in Forest Resource Technology, she still wasn’t sure what she was going to do with her life, but farming was definitely not on the agenda.
That is until, one fateful day, whilst I was doing national service after my graduation, I got to know about a Fairtrade Cooperative - a farmers’ group. It was at the Annual General Meeting of the cooperative that I saw a different side to farming. Farmers were the Members of the Board, and they were running the whole show, and that got me very curious.
Today, all my siblings who wanted nothing to do with farming, want to get into farming because they’ve seen me succeed.
Impacts of COVID-19
For a young, energetic woman who spends her days monitoring and training farmers, working on her own 7.2 acre farm or making soap for sale, Deborah is not used to idleness, and she admits she’s not handling the COVID-19 pandemic too well. "I feel lonely. Travel makes me happy. Going to the villages to interact with the farmers really brings me joy but as a single woman, living alone, away from my family, I try to study online but the cost of the internet is very expensive. I can’t spend all my earnings on the internet.
I am single but I am financially responsible for my parents, some of my siblings’ children and even some of the farmers I work with. Now that no one is working, their demand is even more. Some farmers are not even going to their farms. People are afraid."
We hope that cocoa buyers and other chocolate industries that support Ghanaian farmers will maintain business as usual. The income from cocoa buying helps us in the community too - we’re able to buy Veronica buckets for hand washing and other supplies to help farmers to go through this season. We’ve also built a 3 classroom block in our community.
In spite of the uncertainty COVID-19 has brought, Deborah is seeing some positives about a few things:
"Apart from farming, I’m also a soapmaker and the demand for soap is very high now so that’s bringing me some good money. As a cooperative, we’ve also decided to use the Information Center’s broadcast systems in the communities to educate our farmers. We’ve also purchased a vehicle we’ll use to move from community to community to educate farmers against Child Labor."
To read more about our farm-level operations during the time of COVID-19, please see our Farm-level operations: supporting cocoa farmers at the time of COVID-19.