We love chocolate ice cream: Phish Food, Chocolate Fudge brownie (now in both dairy & vegan friendly versions), the list goes on! And part of the reason we love our chocolate ice cream is because it’s Fairtrade cocoa that we use to make it. Recently our friends at the Fairtrade Foundation went on a visit to farmers’ cooperatives that Ben & Jerry’s support through Fairtrade cocoa. We wanted to share one of the amazing stories they brought back – the story of a woman called Alphosine.
Alphonsine is a widowed mother of three children and a member of Coopaza Fairtrade cooperative in Cote d’Ivoire. In some ways Alphonsine’s life is similar to that of your average cocoa farmer - like the fact that her day starts at 4am and it takes her 2 hours to walk to her farm! However, Alphonsine is no ordinary farmer: she’s a Fairtrade farmer and supplier of delicious cocoa which ends up in our chunk filled ice cream! Alongside Greyston and Caring Dairy, Fairtrade is one of the many ways our ice cream is good for people and planet. But don’t take our word for it, grab a spoon and dig into Alphonsine’s story on how Fairtrade has helped her and her community:
It’s a labour of love for Alphonsine to harvest the cocoa from her 2 hectare farm. First, she cuts down the ripe cocoa pods from her 15-year-old trees. Then she extracts the beans from inside, before the process of fermenting and then drying in the sun for 4 days begins!
The co-operative, which she’s been a part of for seven years, has allowed for great change. In Alphonsine’s words, 'the community is happier - because Coopaza support the community.' They’ve been able to build latrines and a canteen at the schools, an office and meeting room at the secondary school, a bridge and a well to counteract water shortages.
Climate change is a worrying issue for the community. Over the last seven years, lack of rain has meant Alphonsine could only produce half a bag of cocoa. But, solutions from the co-operative - including growing protective shade trees on the farm, have increased her productivity to more like seven or eight bags.
And there are yet more benefits to Coopaza! As the sole provider for her kids, Alphonsine previously found managing money difficult and she didn’t have the facility to save. But, through the co-operative she now has a savings account; plus, training sessions have taught her budgeting skills so she no longer needs to borrow money. The training and equipment she receives is crucial for ensuring her trees are as productive as possible, also helping her save: 'Farming school teaches us about the size of the cocoa, how to get a good crop, how to clean the farm.'
Fairtrade means Alphonsine can look forward to a positive future for herself and her family. ‘I have a lot. Right now, I want to achieve many things - build my house. I want my children to succeed so that they can have a job and one day they could support me when I am old. Through the co-operative I believe I can achieve things'.
Ben & Jerry’s support Alphonsine’s cooperative, plus a couple of others in the nearby area which produce Fairtrade cocoa. So next time you’re spooning a tub of chocolate fudge brownie, remember Alphonsine, and that by buying Fairtrade products you’re supporting Alphonsine and people like her to live better lives.