A very simple look at the start of the cocoa supply chain

These photos were taken at the end of August on a trip to Ghana with Kraft Foods, to look at how conditions can be improved in the cocoa supply chain in rural areas.

Cocoa beans begin as tiny buds on the tree, then grow and change colour as they do so

At the right time, when they have turned yellow, they are ready to be harvested

Most are cut open with a machete, although companies are trying to discourage this practice in favour of safer methods

The beans and cocoa pod flesh are wrapped in leaves for up to a week to ferment

A week or so’s drying begins, with the beans sifted and sorted as often as every fifteen minutes in the sun

Here you can see cocoa beans at different stages of drying. They are then bagged and sent for roasting, before export

The payments from cocoa can mean villagers gain access to safer water, as in this village

Podcasts with farmers, NGOs, and Kraft executives can be found at this link.


  1. Something not mentioned in this nice photo essay: widespread use of child slave labor in cocoa harvesting. For this reason, I buy fair trade cocoa powder and chocolate bars, and for health reasons I buy organic.

    Read more here.

  2. Hi Shel,

    Thanks for your comments. From what I could tell, the child slave labour problem is much more prevalent in countries outside Ghana.

    My trip was confined to that country, and from my research and interviews I could only deduce that given how Ghana is governed, despite there being major challenges, that child slave labour us not a major issue there.

    That's not so sat it doesn't exist at all, particularly close to the border with Ivory Coast. But the problem appears much more widespread in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

    Burkina Faso does not grow cocoa (it's too far north) but I understand that children are sometimes moved from there to Ivory Coast for cocoa harvesting.

    Shel, if you, or indeed any readers, know of cases of child slave labour in Ghana, I would be most interested to know about them. We are writing a long piece about the Ghana cocoa supply chain at this very moment.

    Thanks again for your comments.


  3. In the meantime you must have seen the BBC doc "Tracing the bitter truth of chocolate and child labour". I'm working for Oxfam Worldshops in Belgium. We actually had to stop buying cocoa from our partner in Ghana for a while, because of problems on this subject.

    You're absolutely right though: problems are more severe in Ivory Coast.

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