Ai Taguchi started the “Cacao Revolution” in Ghana, Africa, to reform the local cacao industry and to create a connection between Ghanaian cacao farmers and Japanese consumers.
ICONfront interviewed her on her activism, the “Cacao Revolution,” her new company called Mpraeso, her motivation, and more. We will split her interview article into two parts and release them on separate weeks.
This week, we are releasing part 1. What motivated her to start the “Cacao Revolution”? What is this project about? Read the full article to find out.
Q1. Please tell us about your project.
I started chocolate activism in Ghana which can bring a sustainable production and consumption cycle of cacao, and I named it the “Cacao Revolution.” This project can contribute to the production of high-quality cacao, the transparency of the cacao distribution system in Ghana, and the creation of a chain of trust and love between cacao farmers and consumers. Through this series of reformations, the market value and the quality of Ghanaian cacao can be improved.
Q2. What specifically is the “Cacao Revolution”?
The “Cacao Revolution” is a project that reforms Ghanaian cacao and chocolate industry from five different dimensions. What motivated me to start this project was the systemic negative cycle in the cacao industry in Ghana. The Ghanaian government has a department specialized in cacao, called Ghana Cocoa Board. This department collects all cacao beans produced in the country and sets fixed buying prices regardless of the quality of the products. Since the farmers are not able to get suited rewards even if they produce good cacao beans, they are losing their motivation to make good products and are minimizing their efforts, and therefore, the cacao quality declines. In reality, sometimes stones or germinated beans are packaged in the same bag with cacao and are sold in the market. Some Japanese chocolatiers say that two-thirds of the cacao beans they bought from Ghana are sometimes defective. Then, the number of companies and chocolatiers who buy Ghanaian cacao declines, and the government lowers the buying prices more, which takes away the cacao farmers’ motivation. This results in poverty acceleration. As a result of the government’s pricing policy, this negative cycle tends to be created. And the mission of the “Cacao Revolution” is to break this cycle.
The “Cacao Revolution” involves five different reformations: awareness of farmers, production, distribution, awareness of consumers, and return on benefits.
The reformation of farmers’ awareness
Usually, the local cacao farmers do not have a chance to taste chocolate. They produce cacao prioritizing quantity so they can sell more products to foreign companies. But, this reformation suggests the shift of production focus from quantity to quality for the cacao farmers. I established a chocolate factory there as a part of the reformation process. The local cacao farmers who never tasted chocolate can learn how chocolate is made from cacao beans at the factory, and they can become interested in cacao beans and the quality of them.
The reformation of production
I established an agricultural cooperative for all cacao farmers in the village I was working with to create a space where the farmers can exchange information and discuss how to improve the quality of cacao beans. This leads to the production of better cacao in the village as a whole.
The reformation of distribution
In this step, I started tagging a bag of cacao beans with a producer’s name and place of production to clarify who made the products and where. Mpraeso (the company which Ai established in June of 2020) is the first company that introduced this distribution transparency system to Ghana. This reformation enables Japanese chocolatiers and consumers to think about the Ghanaian cacao farmers.
The reformation of consumers’ awareness
To create an opportunity for Japanese consumers to make chocolate from cacao and to think about cacao beans and the challenges of cacao production, I organize cacao workshops every month in Japan. Since I think Valentine’s season is a good chance, I often come back to Japan from Ghana to hold such workshops. Now I am planning to release information about Ghanaian cacao and chocolate to more people, using SNS and YouTube.
The reformation of a benefits return system
The village residents used to not have a custom of saving money, so I created the “Mpraeso Foundation” with them together so they can save a part of their profits for the village. This is very important because the money saved in the foundation is used to provide educational and medical support to the residents, and in the emergency, such as an epidemic, the money can secure financial support and necessities for the residents. Furthermore, this saving system would be able to reduce the risk of income gap among the village residents which the new cacao pricing policy might cause. The foundation plays a significant role in protecting the residents’ life and the village’s equality and peace.
Ghana has fertile land that gives birth to diverse plants and trees. Blessed with this rich land, Ghanaian cacao beans have a good balance of taste and continues to be loved and chosen by people all over the world despite the negative cycle in Ghana’s cacao industry. In fact, 80% of all chocolate consumed in Japan is made from Ghanaian cacao beans. Through the “Cacao Revolution,” I am spreading the message from Ghana to the world: “we need to make a system together that values the quality of good cacao beans and appreciates the efforts of cacao farmers!”
Thank you for reading!
The English version of part 2 will be released on July 5th. It is going to explain the origin of her activism, the establishment of Mpraeso, and her motivation.
Ai Taguchi will launch her crowdfunding campaign for the “Cacao Revolution” in July, 2020.
“I hope my chocolate will create an opportunity for you to think about Ghana!”
Ai’s opening remarks at TICAD (Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development)
Ai’s SNS page