WOMEN STUDIES ECO-FOOTPRINT PROJECT
Topic – Cocoa Beans Production Process
Chocolate is a key ingredient in many foods such as milk shakes, candy bars, cookies and cereals. It is ranked as one of the most favourite flavours in North America and Europe. Despite its popularity most people do not know the unique origin of this popular treat. Chocolate is a product that requires complex procedures to produce. The process involves harvesting cocoa, refining coca to cocoa beans, and shipping the cocoa beans to the manufacturing factory for cleaning, coaching and grinding. These cocoa beans will then be imported or exported to other countries and be transformed into different types of chocolate products. Cocoa beans grow in countries like Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Malaysia, but the highest cocoa producing country is Côte d'Ivoire. The production process of cocoa beans include: first, cocoa is harvested manually. The seed pods of cocoa are collected and the beans are selected and placed in piles. These cocoa beans are then ready to be shipped to the manufacturer for production. Cocoa grows in pods that sprout off the trunks and branches of cocoa trees. The pods have the shape and almost the size of football. The pods start out green and turn orange when they are ripe. When the pods are ripe they are harvested gently with machetes. Machines can damage the trees or the clusters of flowers and pods that grow on the trunk, so workers have to harvest the pods by hand, using short, hooked blades mounted on long poles to reach the highest fruit. The cocoa seeds then undergo a process of fermentation by placing them in large, shallow, heated trays or by covering them with large banana leaves. If the climate is right, they may be simply heated by the sun. Workers mostly women come along periodically and stir them up so that all of the beans come out equally fermented. This process may take up to five or eight days. After fermentation, the cocoa seeds are dried before they can be scooped into sacks and shipped to chocolate manufacturers. Farmers simply spread the fermented seeds on trays and leave them in the sun to dry. The drying process usually takes about a week and results in seeds becoming reduced to about half of their original weight. During the production process, labor is not equally divided between men and women who work in the planation; this brings us to the issue of gender division. The gender divide that exists on the cocoa plantation is that most farm work is conducted by men, although most certainly there are tasks where women are very active, such as scooping the beans from the already opened husks, turning the beans during the fermentation and drying process, and sewing the jute sacs needed for the packaging of the dried beans. Women in the farms normally tend to the needs of the family. When female labor is hired during the harvesting time the wages given to them are not the same as those for men. Perhaps another reason why men are preferred is because of their assumed higher productivity rate compared to that of women. Due to different practices followed in individual regions, even within countries, the participation of women and their assigned tasks vary enormously. For instance, because of the popular method of sun drying cocoa beans in Ecuador, it is necessary to “clean” the beans. This job is mostly undertaken by women. This is not the case in Ghana or Brazil where sun drying is accomplished while protecting the beans from foreign matters and waste. It is interesting to note however that there is no specific pattern for the assignment of tasks to women, except during the harvest when the scooping of the beans from the opened pods is primarily performed by women in most cocoa producing countries. Given the great differences in the systems of production in producing countries it is difficult to find a common percentage that reflects the average participation of the...
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