- Ensayos de Calidad, Tareas y Monografias

Organizing farmers as an emancipatory factor: creating a cocoa supply chain in Sao Tome

Enviado por   •  26 de Septiembre de 2012  •  5.015 Palabras (21 Páginas)  •  869 Visitas

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Michel Dulcire

CIRAD, UMR Innovation,

34398 Montpellier - France

(+33)(0)4 67 61 57 58

Dulcire, M. (2012). The organisation of farmers as an emancipatory factor: The setting up of a supply chain of cocoa in São Tomé. The Journal of Rural and Community Development, 7(2), 131-141.


Few studies have examined the implementation and evolution development of a contract as a learning process for the actors involved. Individual farmers in São Tomé were obliged to organise themselves into a collective in response to a chocolate manufacturer’s innovative proposal of an organic cocoa, fair trade contract. This relational construction between actors is a basis and guarantee of the contract’s durability. We analyse how the relationship between the manufacturer and the farmers evolved, the technical and organisational impact on the farmers, and the farmers’ future perspectives. Our aim is to further understanding of whether the establishment of such a collective cocoa contract may be a means of achieving autonomy. In other words, we explore whether it presents an answer to the question of producer emancipation.

Key words: cocoa, community, emancipation, farmers’ organisation, innovation, learning process, partnership, São Tome.

JEL-Codes: L14, O1, O32, Q13, R00


Cocoa was introduced to São Tomé by Portuguese settlers at the end of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, São Tomé rapidly had become the world’s largest exporter of cocoa. The island became known as "Chocolate Island", and the owners of the large cocoa plantations imposed onerous conditions on farm workers. Over the years that followed, production regularly diminished. Since independence, cocoa production has stagnated at a low level despite heavy investments by international organizations to revive the crop (PNUD, 2002). Attempts by various governments to diversify agriculture also have failed (Frynas et al. 2003). Cacao continues to be a market monocrop, the economic viability of which is no longer certain, and São Tomé must import between 75 and 80% of its food needs (ADB, 2009).

One of these rural renewal projects was launched in 1999 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFDA) and local authorities. This family farm support program (PAPAFPA) aims to coordinate projects seeking to bolster the particularly low incomes of small farmers (IFDA, 2010). These projects largely have focused on the production and export of cocoa produced by small farmers. They also have focused on the expansion of vegetables, fruits and cereals, the production of which remains insufficient to meet local consumption needs.

This was the context in which IFDA solicited the intervention of a French chocolate manufacturer specialized in high quality, aromatic cacao. This manufacturer wished to broaden his supply sources, and sought unique quality cacao produced through organic agriculture. To guarantee a steady supply of quality cocoa, he only wished to work with farmer’s collectives. The manufacturer required that post-harvest work be collective, and undertaken in community infrastructure. Lastly, the manufacturer set down his requirements in an equitable contract he intended to sign with interested cooperatives. Respect of the contract terms was expected to be verified by the member communities and by their cooperative.

The Organic Cacao Export Cooperative (Cooperativa de Exportação do Cacau Biológico, CECAB) was created in response to the manufacturer’s proposal. CECAB coordinates the communities who join the cooperative, and is managed by delegates elected by each of the member communities.

The aim of this research was to understand the action taken in 2005, consciously motivated or not, of the producers and their organizations to engage in a contract with the manufacturer. This contract set down the rights and responsibilities of every party involved. Our hypothesis is that the sustainability of the contract depends on both the technical and organizational capacity of cooperative members to meet the manufacturer’s needs, and on the capacity of members to negotiate changes in the terms of the contract.

We met with numerous actors in the agriculture world with links to the cacao sector (see Box 1). We analysed their perceptions and practices to understand how they have oriented, and currently orient, their manner of proceeding and organizing (Roussiau & Bonardi, 2001). First, we rapidly retrace the history of cacao and its socio-economic organization in São Tomé. We then demonstrate how the development of a contract between the manufacturer and the cooperative reflected technical and organizational requirements. Lastly, we raise the question of whether these contractual learning processes can bring greater autonomy to producers.

Box 1: actors interviewed

We interviewed various actors involved in production and management of cacao, including the chocolate manufacturer and others involved in research and development programs. They were interviewed at their place of work. These interviews, individual and collective, were conducted in a semi-comprehensive mode (Kaufmann, 2007). For the farmers, the interviews focused on their personal and collective history, their actual operations and their future expectations. Twenty-five surveys were conducted:

• 4 groups of farmers, of which 2 from communities of the Cooperativa de Exportação do Cacau Biológico (CECAB);

• 10 individual farmers, of which 5 producers from CECAB communities (3 farmers and 2 delegates);

• the CECAB management team (4);

• the technical and commercial coordinator of CECAB;

• the director of the Programa de Apoio Participativo à Agricultura Familiar e Pesca Artesanal (Papafpa);

• 1 technician from Papafpa;

• a non-governmental community support organization;

• 3 research scientists: 1 French


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