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The story behind your Easter chocolate

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

Farmers in Ghana help produce some of the world's most delicious Easter treats. Here they share how they do it.

Ghana is the world's second-biggest cocoa producer. The crop is so important that it's even on the 20 pesewas coin. Here, some of its smallholder cocoa farmers invite you to a behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes into getting from bean to bar.

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

Cocoa farmers like Akwasi Addae help grow one of the world's most delicious crops. Cocoa farmed in Ghana employs approximately 800,000 farm families and generates $2 billion in revenue for the country. Akwasi is the leader of VSO and Cocoa Life’s community growing initiative. 

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

Also getting ready for the harvest this year is Augustina Frimong. Farmers like Augustina has been trained on how to conduct artificial pollination for cocoa plants. The technique helps farmers produce a better quality of crop, which in turn helps generate a better income. 

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

Working together with VSO and Mondelēz International, farmers attend training and workshops to learn the skills needed to run successful enterprises, and farming techniques to help produce a better crop yield. 

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

A main part of the training is for farmers on how to artificially pollinate the cocoa plant by hand. The artifical pollination helps increase the chances of fertilisation, making it more efficient for farmers and their land. 

Once the crop has been feritilised, cocoa farmers use long-handled steel tools to reach the pods and cut them without wounding the soft bark of the tree. They then collect the harvested fruit in baskets.

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi
VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi
VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

When the pods are ready, they're easy to spot because of their bright yellow. They're now ready to be harvested for their delicious cocoa beans inside.  

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

The inside of the cocoa pod contains 40 seeds on average in a fleshy core. The farmer removes the beans from the pods, packs them into boxes or heaps them into piles, and covers them with mats or banana leaves for anywhere between three to seven days.

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

The time after the harvest has the biggest impact on cocoa quality and on the taste of the cocoa, so it is crucial to get the sequence and techniques right.

The cocoa seeds are packaged up and taken to be dried.

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

The layer of pulp that naturally surrounds the beans heats up and ferments the beans, which enhances the cocoa flavour. Here, Kwame Wireko collects the fermented cocoa seeds ready to be dried in the sun for several days.

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

The dried beans are packed into sacks, and farmers take them to buying stations where they are sold. To make the final chocolate the beans are then turned into a liquid paste and mixed with sugar, milk and a variety of fillings to make each signature delight. 

VSO/ Nicholas Seun Adatsi

Buyers transport the sacks to an exporting company where the sacks are inspected, put into burlap, sisal, or plastic bags, and transported to the exporter's warehouse, where the beans are stored until they're shipped to a manufacturer. 

VSO and Cocoa Life are making it possible for farmers to build stable incomes from Cocoa farming through sharing farming techniques and business skills. You can read more about the Cocoa Life programme here