Cocoa and Courage in Côte d’Ivoire

Ouedraogo Boureima (third row center, yellow shirt) with Rainforest Alliance staff and other members of the COABOB co-op. Photo: Rainforest Alliance


Guest post by EarthShare member Rainforest Alliance.

When you think about the numerous products we enjoy that contain cocoa, many of us probably don’t consider its origins and the farmers responsible for producing this commodity.

Meet Ouedraogo Boureima and his family.

To sustain the cocoa farm that is his father’s legacy and his family’s sustenance, Ouedraogo moved to another country and weathered a civil war, going to tremendous lengths to keep his dream alive. But he wasn’t alone in his journey. The Rainforest Alliance is helping Ouedraogo’s family—not to mention millions of other agriculture, forestry, and tourism workers and their loved ones—follow their dreams and build better lives.

When four-year-old Ouedraogo’s family left Côte d’Ivoire and traveled hundreds of miles to Burkina Faso in 1985, all they took with them was food, two sheep, four cooking pots, and a photo of their ancestors. After settling in rural Blolequin, Ouedraogo’s father started farming and the young boy soon joined him in tending their cocoa trees. Then in 2011, the Second Ivorian Civil War erupted and a massacre claimed 40 lives in Blolequin. The region’s normally blood-red earth now spoke to its deep sorrow.

Ouedraogo and his family fled but returned to that soil in 2012, only to find that a new wave of threats to his farm. His trees had survived war, but could they survive pathogenic fungi, climate change, and a market overrun by unsustainably harvested cocoa? 

That’s where the Rainforest Alliance’s agriculture experts—and you—come in.

Côte d’Ivoire exports more cocoa than any other country but yields are sinking to historic lows. Since 2008, the Rainforest Alliance has been providing the country’s farmers with methods that have been proven to result in better social, economic, and environmental outcomes.

Rainforest Alliance Certification in Côte d’Ivoire works for the environment and for people. Certified cocoa farms yield 72 percent more cocoa and create 291 percent more net income than uncertified farms.

Today, Ouedraogo’s cooperative – called COABOB – is Rainforest Alliance Certified and has united 798 farmers behind a shared vision of sustainable growth. The nonprofit organization helped Ouedraogo and his peers adopt techniques that better irrigate and shade their cocoa trees, and helped to wean their crops off of agrochemicals that do more harm than good.

With the support of people like you, the Rainforest Alliance is proud to have certified 85,000 Ivorian farms covering more than one million acres. But in a country where 4.5 million people depend on cocoa, that’s not enough.

Agricultural expansion is behind 70 percent of global deforestation, and there are hundreds of thousands of farmers around the world who are eager to adopt the sustainable practices that are benefiting families like Ouedraogo’s.

“There are people who believe in what I am doing,” Ouedraogo says. “This makes the world feel smaller and gives me pride in my work.”

You can help the Rainforest Alliance reach more of those farmers by supporting our work through the Combined Federal Campaign


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