Direct Trade connects cocoa farmers with chocolate makers, without any middlemen, in a way that they become dependent on each other´s success, ethics, and professionalism. Direct Trade is so much more than Fair Trade as it does not depend on grants or fines, but rather on really sharing the value created by selling the chocolate.
By trading directly with cocoa farmers, they earn significantly more than they would if middlemen were involved. The farmers are able to support their families, they are invested in and rewarded for producing the finest-quality cocoa beans and you can enjoy our chocolate knowing that it isn’t at the expense of somebody else.
“We believe that our direct trade partnership, which treats the farmers with fairness, dignity and respect is the future of chocolate.”
Our search for the best cocoa beans in Africa led our Head Chocolate Maker, Antonino Allegra, to the small rural region of Kyela in Tanzania where he met two groups of passionate farmers, Tujikomboe and Ikapu, who were both frustrated with a system which left their hard work and excellent-quality cocoa beans with little reward.
The harsh reality is that in the value chain between the cocoa beans and you, the chocolate lover, cocoa farmers earn the least. The traditional cocoa trading system is complicated and when we first traced this chain, we discovered many (unnecessary) middlemen between the cocoa farmers and us. It was while sitting in a traditional meeting under the shade of a cocoa tree that Antonino came to a solution that would benefit everyone.
“I thought to myself; ‘Why does it have to be this way?’ Why can’t I just buy the beans straight from them? So we cut out all the traditional middlemen, buyers, sellers and organizations that control certifications, all of whom add their own profit margins to the beans the farmers have worked so hard to grow.
Direct trade is certainly not the easiest route and we have faced many challenges and gone to great lengths to do so successfully. While the process sounds simpler, removing all the middlemen also means removing traditional transport and payment systems and starting from scratch. With the help of TechnoServe, an international nonprofit that helps promote business solutions to poverty in developing communities, we worked with the cocoa farmers to provide training in all the processes that the middlemen would have fulfilled such as government documentation, taxes, banking and transportation. This is why direct trade will always be better than any other certification.
Often the best cocoa is grown off the beaten track and getting the cocoa beans from our farmers in Kyela to the shipping port of Dar Es Salaam now requires a 16-hour journey by truck via dirt roads – a long trip that the farmers often take themselves in order to make sure their beans arrive safely and just one of the many examples of their passion and eagerness to empower themselves.
At each step of the process, AFRIKOA provides them with support, knowledge and resources. We are proud to be one of the few direct trade chocolate makers in the world who provide the farmers with pre-financing to ensure they can take care of their families without resorting to debt.
While direct trade is a challenge very few chocolate makers undertake, we believe in it because sometimes the right way isn’t always the easiest way.
UPDATE For us #directtrade has always made sense in terms of sustainability, the best quality cocoa, paying the farmers well and we have all worked extremely hard since our last trip here in 2015 to make our vision a reality. But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine the difference #directtrade would make in the lives of the farmers upon our return!
With just two orders from us, the #Tujikomboe farmer group were able to buy a piece of land and build a cocoa fermentation centre for everyone to use to improve their productivity. Individually, we spoke to farmers who built themselves new houses, toilets and are now able to send their kids to school.
This was all achieved, not with charity, but with simply paying them more and allowing the farmers to improve their livelihoods on their own. Direct trade CAN make a difference – and so can you every time you purchase an #Afrikoa chocolate bar. ·