Silva Cacao Pods

HOW A WOMAN PUT TOGOLESE CACAO ON THE WORLD MAP

#GIRLPOWER

A women-run cacao cooperative in Togo, Kekeli, was founded by Abra Benczedi in 2019. Abra is the driving force behind the incomparable cacao produced here. She is passionate about producing the highest quality cacao and cares about the environment in which it is grown. The cooperative is independent and is made up of smallholders who have centralised the post-harvesting of this cacao to ensure both consistency and quality.

ABRA’S EARLY LIFE

I was a weak child, often sick, and couldn’t stay with my parents in town. Instead, I grew up with my grandparents at their farm in the countryside. My grandfather was a cacao farmer. Like many Togolese children in rural areas, especially in those days, I did not go to school. But my childhood on my grandparents’ farm instilled a love of nature and farming in me that never left me. And on that same farm I met my husband, a Swiss man who had come to Togo to support smallholders. We fell in love, and I moved with him to Switzerland. In Switzerland I learned French, and I learned to read and write. We have three children, one boy and two girls. When they had grown up, I wanted to go back to Togo and fulfil my dream of becoming a cacao farmer.”

2. Togo Kekeli Abra

BECOMING A CACAO FARMER

In 2009 I was able to secure some land in Togo. Because I didn’t know a lot about cacao farming, I employed two growers from Ghana. They taught me how to plant and take care of the trees, all very valuable lessons. But when they advised me to clear the land, I refused. For me, farming and nature go hand in hand, and I will never cut down trees to make place for cacao trees. On my cacao farm it is like walking through a forest. I cherish nature. When I see my plants dying, I go and talk to them, I tell them they can and must survive. When the first rains of the rainy season come, my heart swells with happiness and joy when I see that those same plants are now vibrant and full of life.”

KEKELI COOPERATIVE

One day, I was walking with my husband on the farm, and we heard somebody calling a child: Kekeli, Kekeli! My husband asked me the meaning of the name in Ewe – our national language – and I told him: Kekeli is Light. He said you should call the farm Kekeli, as it is a shining light for all farmers around you. Kekeli also became the name for the cacao cooperative.

We have around 290 members in the cooperative. When I introduced central fermentation in the area, many farmers were reluctant to give their wet beans to me. Normally, farmers ferment their beans on their own plot under banana leaves, heap fermentation. They were afraid that their beans would be stolen. Now they know that central fermentation helps to improve the quality of the cacao and will fetch higher prices on the market.”

3. Togo Team Kekeli Web

BEING A WOMAN CACAO FARMER

As a woman it is not easy to be a cacao farmer. Traditionally cacao plots belong to men, women do not inherit land in Togo. I am lucky, my husband supports me all the way. I tell women to go to their father and ask them for land to grow cacao. They need to build up something for themselves and their children.

With cacao, women can earn their own money, they don’t have to wait for their husbands to pay for food, clothes or school fees for the children. Out of the 290 members of Kekeli, 187 are women. Almost two-third! When I started my farm and the cooperative, men did not like it at all.

Today, I feel free from other people’s opinion. Today, the men who tried to stop me have become my friends. They want their wives to be cacao farmers, too. Today, the men see how we can achieve more if we work together. The goal is to produce great cacao in Togo and to make sure the world recognizes this.”

4.Togo Surroundings Web

TOGO – KEKELI

At Togo Kekeli we process two cacao qualities: Kekeli Nujéjé and Kekeli Koko. While Koko is a round and balanced cacao with chocolaty body and alternating flavours of buttermilk and chocolate mousse, Nujéjé has a softer profile with refreshing note of sour cherry and coconut.

These centrally fermented cacao are unique finds in Togo, a specialty for adventurous chocolate makers ready to explore this undiscovered origin.

5. Tg Coop Kekeli Team©Silva Cacao 2 Web

Location

  • Region: Mount Agou, Plateaux Region, Togo
  • Climate : The area is known for its warm tropical climate with an average temperature of 26°C and over 1000 mm of rain per year. Perfect conditions for cacao trees to flourish

Organisation / Farm:

  • 290 smallholder farmers organised in a primary cooperative

Quality

  • Genetics: Forastero hybrids and Amelonado
  • Flavour:
    • Kekeli Koko: round and balanced chocolaty profile with alternating flavours of buttermilk, chocolate mousse and maple-like sweetness.
    • Kekeli Nujéjé: soft with refreshing notes of sour cherry, coconut, and pecan nut, and a herbal hint.
  • Fermentation: Central fermentation in wooden boxes covered with banana leaves for 6 to 7 days
  • Drying: 5 to 8 days sun-dried on African beds
6. Tg Coop Kekeli Drying Infrastructure©Silva Cacao Web

Certification

  • Fairtrade certified and in process of organic certification.

Supply Chain

  • 100% traceable supply chain. Central fermentation, drying, screening, picking and packing in 70 kg bags. Bags are transported to Lomé for shipment. Direct price agreements with Kekeli Cooperative.

People

  • Cacao is grown by 100 smallholder farmers, who receive premium prices for their cacao.

Forest & Nature

  • Cacao grows in small-scale agroforestry under shade trees and is intercropped with other crops. This system forms a buffer zone to protect the remaining forest in the proximity of Mount Agou.

Credits, Acknowledgements, References

https://silva-cacao.com/news/the-wonderful-story-of-how-a-woman-put-togolese-cacao-on-the-world-map/

https://silva-cacao.com/product/togo-kekeli/

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2906133419713093

Photo Credits: Silva Cacao

Author

  • Katrien Delaet

    organisation: SILVA Cacao

    Katrien is a cacao and chocolate lover, and the driving force behind Silva Cacao. Katrien holds a master degree in bio-science engineering and economics, and has over 15 years of experience in coffee and cacao sourcing, logistics, quality and sustainability. Katrien is passionate about the pursuit of flavour, finding lost varieties and building meaningful cacao-partnerships. Her ultimate mission is to put a smile on the faces of farmers, chocolate makers and consumers.

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