During the week of Valentine’s Day, more than 58 million pounds of chocolate will be purchased in the United States and delivered to friends and loved ones in heart-shaped boxes or red-colored foil. Yet before the pink and red packaging, and before the caramel or nougat-filled centers, our much-loved chocolate candies first begin as small cocoa beans grown and harvested by one of the five million smallholder cocoa farmers living in developing countries.
Approximately 80-90% of cocoa in the world is produced by smallholder farmers, most of whom live in West Africa and about a third in Ghana alone. In these regions, despite the growing worldwide demand for cocoa, farmers like Agnes from Ghana struggle to earn a living. Without access to financial services, suppliers for high-quality seed and fertilizer, or purchasers to buy the cocoa at a fair market value, these farmers often only earn a fraction of their potential income.
By working alongside smallholder cocoa farmers like Agnes, Opportunity International’s Agriculture Finance program is expanding access to financial services, providing technical training and creating streamlined processes to ensure farmers can grow, harvest and sell their crops efficiently and earn a sustainable living. With support from Opportunity, cocoa farmers are increasing their crop yields and quality, connecting to profitable markets and sustainably increasing their incomes to lift themselves and their families out of poverty – a pretty sweet deal!
This Valentine’s Day, as you spread the love through chocolate, remember to also send a little love to hardworking farmers around the world!