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Cycling for organic cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire

Smart-tech and innovation

In Côte d’Ivoire, a raw chocolate factory is processing cocoa beans into chocolate using a human-powered bicycle

© Cyrille Bah

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Eco-friendly chocolate

Innovative technologies in West Africa are reducing the environmental impacts of cocoa processing, and increasing farmer resilience to climate change.

In Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa beans are being processed using a ‘grinding bicycle’ to produce about 400 kg of chocolate each month. At Mon Choco, a raw chocolate factory, carefully sorted cocoa beans are poured through a funnel fixed to the bike, and transformed into a paste by a grinder activated through human-powered pedalling. After 2-3 days of grinding, a sleek chocolate paste is formed, which is then chilled in moulds.

Mon Choco produces organic and environmentally-friendly chocolate bars, which is a rarity for Côte d’Ivoire where very little finished chocolate is produced. “We are the first cocoa-producing country in the world and we do not produce chocolate,” says Dana Mroueh, owner of the factory. “I wanted Ivorians to discover Côte d’Ivoire chocolate with local products such as chilli, ginger and cashew nuts. It was also a way for me to value the work of planters who are often forgotten,” Mroueh continues.

After 2-3 days of grinding, the sleek chocolate paste is chilled in moulds

After 2-3 days of grinding, the sleek chocolate paste is chilled in moulds

© Cyrille Bah

Unlike normal chocolate, there is also no cooking of the raw cocoa beans at Mon Choco, resulting in a much richer, almost fruity taste. “We are artisanal chocolatiers, so our process is manual, from the cocoa pods to the final product of packaging the chocolate tablets. One of our trademarks is that we do not roast the cocoa pods, we use raw chocolate. This enables the cocoa pods to retain its flavours and nutritional values. It’s also richer in protein, it’s richer in anti-oxidants, and the taste is really different,” says Mroueh, who buys the cocoa beans straight from the farmer and then dries them on the roof of her factory in Abidjan, or in her tumble dryer. “We really want to have a minimal impact on the environment by using as little electricity as possible… We use recycled paper when we can, glass jars rather than plastic jars, and we use a bike that allows us to save electrical energy,” she explains.

Organic cocoa beans are difficult to find in Côte d’Ivoire, where the overwhelming majority of farmers use chemicals and insecticides. As a result, the organic bars are expensive to produce and with premium prices of around €2.30 per bar, the factory caters primarily to the European market. “A craft product like ours is more expensive on average than an industrial product… but we try to have a product that can be accessible to the majority of people,” says Mroueh. “In the future, we aim to export our products to other African countries, as well as to Europe and Asia.”

Climate-smart cocoa

In order to help strengthen cocoa productivity and enhance climate resilience in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, a data platform known as ‘CocoaCloud’ is being scaled-up. The platform generates, translates and disseminates critical information – such as weather forecasts and location-specific agricultural advice – that facilitates ‘climate-smart’ decisions for agriculture. CocoaCloud is already supporting 7,500 cocoa farmers, extension advisors and community members in the West African region with training and localised weather forecasting services, and aims to reach 1 million cocoa farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire by 2024.

Partners behind the platform – the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Opus Insights B.V. – called upon the private sector and donors to support the agri-tech initiative at the UN Africa Climate Week in Accra, Ghana, in March 2019. “CocoaCloud demonstrates our commitment to transforming food systems in key regions using innovative, climate-smart solutions. We now call for many other organisations to join and benefit from CocoaCloud,” said Peter Bakker, WBCSD’s President and CEO.

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