Interview & story
Place of residence
Discover Odette’s chocolate success story
I am Odette ANAKI, my grandmother was a farmer, she had a cocoa farm, but I was in Abidjan with my uncle who brought me up, so I studied in Abidjan until 1st form class.
When my uncle died, I went back to the land: I came to stay with my grandmother and it was in 1996 that I started cultivating the land. It was my grandmother who taught me how to plant cocoa, how to plant banana … that’s how I learned everything.
Prior to my grandmother’s death, I already had 2 ha of cocoa, I also made 1 ha of cashew afterwards, both being the source of my livelihood. With the money I earned, I started to produce the vegetable products that I sent to Abidjan in order to send my children to school: the 1st is at the university, he passed the Baccalaureate Degree two years ago. My daughter, for lack of means did not go to school, she’s in hairstyle instead. The last, Chris is in 4th form class.
I was following an association called YUE BIE GNIAN, where I was in charge of communication. I was approached by Camille who was setting up a women’s project. Our President paid a sum of money for our training in cocoa processing for 6 months. Once back from training, I started following the women. The first, our moms who were there and who are the oldest were not motivated. That’s where I took up the challenge. I told them that if the coop had believed in us, therefore we were able. The Ivorian woman is strong, she wants to be autonomous, that’s how I called my sisters, and we got together to start working.
Processing cocoa butter is very hard for some women because everything is done manually. But this is the price to pay for empowerment.
The coop rented us a house in which we work. They send us cocoa. We share out the work. There are two women’s groups: the first group will do the sorting, and the second group will husk the good beans. And all that is done manually! The small sorted beans are roasted to make cocoa butter and the beautiful beans are processed into chocolate! To make the oil (cocoa butter), we take a pot, we make the dough, we pound well the cocoa , and when it is well cooked, it’s like on a peanut sauce, the oil comes up and we extract it. Then we put this oil in bowls and it becomes cocoa butter. Everything is done in a traditional way by the women of Bazégnan, through Coop! Today we live on this because after work we have a gain that the President gives us to meet our needs. I think that in the long run if we develop well, everyone will be satisfied…
Improving our lives
Since it’s a beginning, the little we have, we put it in a petty cash as personal contributions each month. That so doing helps us on a daily basis and also deal with a problem of one of our members. For example, if today we have a sister who has a problem, we tell her to take 10,000 CFA francs, and on return she brings back 11,000 CFA francs so that there is some surplus.
We do not sell the products ourselves, since it is the Coop that provides us with everything, after processing we just put in stock and the President takes care of the sale by deducting what he gave us as advance payment.
My daily life as a woman and wife
The person I live with is a farmer too. But it’s not the father of my children, so I am the one who brings them up. So I am very organized in my expenses. When you have small earnings you have to be organized… When I have my income from cocoa and cashew nuts, I go to the supermarket on Saturdays where I buy in wholesale some soap, a small bag of rice, and some oil and milk boxes. That way, in the mornings before the kids go to school, I have everything I need for the week. I give some money to the eldest of my children because he does not come back at noon, he eats at school. I pay bills for electricity and water, if the children are sick I take a little to send them to the hospital and it is in the same money that I take to pay for vegetable products to send to Abidjan…
Cocoa processing work is planned. If we want to gain our autonomy we try to make butter twice in the month. This is the price to pay to be independent tomorrow. It is this value that is added to cocoa by processing it that will help us.
The work is done over a week in which we do not go to farm.
From Monday to Tuesday we sort, roast and pound.
On Wednesday both groups are there at the same time and we prepare the pots, the furnaces, the coal … and we start to prepare. On Thursday we finish preparing the cocoa butter; so that on Saturday, everyone goes to farm.
According to the weight we have produced, either we make 260kg in the month, or 300kg or 400kg, as that’s what he looks at and pays, it’s per kilo: 500FCFA per kilo for butter, and 500FCFA/kg for good beans.
To process cocoa into dough, we would need a grinder to produce more dough and move on to another level of production.