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fair trade

Photos: A look inside the world of Fair Trade and the people behind it in Ghana

Fair Trade is an arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions.

SITUATED IN COASTAL west Africa, Ghana is a country of fascinating contradictions.

It’s a socially and economically stable country, where Christian and Muslim mix easily, and where a Year of Return saw thousands of African-Americans returning as tourists.


At the same time, while stable, Ghana still has grinding poverty, especially in rural areas, where the standard of living is below the UN WHO poverty line.

The official minimum wage is $2 (€1.85) a day, but this is largely flouted.

Typical rural cocoa incomes are just under half what is considered a living income: while $329 (€303) a month is considered a living income for Ghana cocoa farmers , in reality they earn $191 (€175) a month. Female-headed households earn less again.


60% of the world’s cocoa comes from the west African nations of Cote d’Ívoire and Ghana, and in this old commodity industry, poverty, child labour, child trafficking and even slavery still occur.

There are however pathways out of poverty. Fairtrade Africa works with 260 cocoa producer organisations in West Africa. In Ghana, there are over 120,000 cocoa farmers in 10 Cooperative Unions across the country working with Fairtrade.

There are a number of successful environmental, child labour, gender, farming and other initiatives Fairtrade support in West Africa. But fundamentally, offering a minimum price and premium are the two core things that make a difference.

Fairtrade specifics – Minimum Price and Premium

The Fairtrade minimum price, currently of $2,400 (€2,210)  a tonne, gives stability and certainly of income, which allows farmers to plan ahead. It’s also set considerably above the typical price for this commodity.

The premium – $240 (€221) a tonne, higher than that offered by any other similar scheme – is an extra payment made to the supplying coops, the use of which is controlled by these coops on the ground.

This is put into poverty alleviation and productivity measures: so that’s building schools, hospitals, drilling boreholes, as well as improving seeds, trees, farming practices, input storage and other agronomic actions.

In the first week in January, I visited Ghana for a week, to spend time with the Asunafo Cooperative.

This coop is based in a new region called Ahafo, created in December 2018, and has offices in the regional capital of Goaso. Asunafo coop has almost 8000 members, 45% female and 55% male. 67 communities are make up the Asunafo coop.

The first community visited was Duase, where we saw cocoa production from field to bean.


Women from the Duase Community walk to work in the cocoa fields. Left to Right Mary Yaa Afrah, Akua Serwaa Nico, Grace Nyanta. 


Mary Nsiah, President of the Duase Community coop, chopping cocoa pods from the trees with a machete. Each pod contains 30-40 beans.

5. Getting beans from the pods in Duase

Men from the Duase community splitting the cocoa pods. Leftover yellow pods are used for making soap.

7. beans fermenting on banana leaves agroforestry in action as the banana tress are on the edge of the cocoa trees

Once removed, the beans, still inside a jelly-like pulp, are fermented on banana leaves for several days.


Members of the Duase community with their drying cocoa beans. The beans are then cleaned and dried outdoors in two stages – above is stage two.

So once these beans are turned into Fairtrade chocolate bars, what use do these cooperatives put the premium earned to? Water, schools and hospitals are the big three.


Free-flowing water in the Asudai community, where a new borehole has been dug thanks to the Fairtrade premium.

The coops decide for themselves what to do with their premiums. Accessing safe water from mechanized boreholes is one of the most popular interventions made.


While the water load is heavy, having it in the centre of the Asudai village is better than walking 2-3 km to the next village, or taking water from potentially contaminated streams.



Leticia Kwao teaches in the new school in Asudai. Almost half of the 67 communities in the Asunafo coop have had schools built from the Fairtrade premium.


Peter Sule attends the local school (background) in Asudai. He intends to go to college afterwards and return as an agronomist to help with cocoa productivity.

25. this will be a hospital in Akrodie

In the Akrodie community, also part of the Asunafo coop, the hospital is being expanded. Currently there is only one wing, where children sometimes share beds. The building above will triple capacity and serve 50 villages.


Building schools was a recurring theme from the Fairtrade premium spending in Ghana. This is a classroom in the Duase community.

As well as social investments, there are also Asunafo also invest in improved farming practice. This can be to do with input storage, training, equipment and improved breeding. Below are some cocoa plants grown by the coop for members.


By having a guaranteed minimum price, and by having a premium to invest, Asunafo have managed to establish a mutual fund – or credit union – for members. This way, members can invest in diversification or productivity in the off season.


Michael Appiagyei Sarpong (Credit Union Manager)

Life is still tough in rural Ghana, and still short of a living income – something Fairtrade Africa and Fairtrade international are both focused on developing. But the women and men of the Asunafo coop put the Fairtrade premium to great use.

They know they are Fairtrade producers, and have improved life for themselves, on their own terms.


L to R. Rebecca Amaa Achiaa, Grace Nyanta, Mary Yaa Afrah, Akua Serwaa Nico Fairtrade cocoa producers of the Duase Community, part of the Asunafo cooperative.

All photos (c) Fairtrade and taken by Yaw Okyere Darko or Oliver Moore. Oliver Moore travelled to Ghana in January with Fairtrade. Fairtrade fortnight begins 24 February and runs for 2 weeks. For more see

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