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 the 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 man called Benjamin.
A sweet ride
Benjamin is very proud of his motorcycle. He uses it to get to his farm and back home, saving him from a hefty walk every morning and evening. He wouldn’t have been able to buy it without the help of Fairtrade. Neither could he send his children to school or support his younger brother in his studies.
Weeding for success
Being a member of the Capreesa Cooperative means that Benjamin receives the Fairtrade Premium for his cocoa. But it also means that he has had the opportunity to learn new and better ways to look after his cocoa plants and improve the quality of his crop – again helping him to earn more money from his two hectares.
Regular pruning, pest and disease control and weeding all help to make sure the cocoa pods stay healthy. Benjamin allows the pods to mature fully before harvesting them, and then breaks them open immediately. He has to judge the right amount of time for fermenting and drying to make sure the end result is a perfect, shiny cocoa bean.
The climes they are a-changing
Life for Benjamin and the rest of the cooperative is by no means perfect. The changes in rainfall patterns have damaged some of his cocoa pods. “It’s no good. When there isn’t enough rain there is nothing we can do. The yield is poor.” The cooperative is trying to address this worry with some climate change adaptation measures, like providing shade trees to protect the cocoa trees from high temperatures. They are also encouraging farmers to look at other income-generating projects for years where their crop fails.
If the local climate continues to change, life could be harder for Benjamin and his family in future. “It will bring many, many problems. For example paying school fees. It becomes difficult, we may have to get some loans.” As a member of the cooperative, Benjamin stands the best chance of a good future.
Ben & Jerry’s support Benjamin’s cooperative, plus a couple of others in the nearby area that produce Fairtrade cocoa. So next time you’re spooning a tub of chocolate fudge brownie, remember Benjamin, and that by buying Fairtrade products you’re supporting Benjamin and people like him to live better lives.