This summer, Rainforest Alliance staffer Stephen Girasuolo and a team of three British filmmakers headed to Côte d’Ivoire to capture the story of cocoa farmer Adrien Koffi Kouadio. Here, we share the final piece and Girasuolo’s behind-the-scenes reflections on the making of the film.
Our SUV awkwardly made its way around the craters in the road, weaving and dipping. This road would take us on a seven-hour journey, past checkpoints and armed soldiers, from the economic capital city of Abidjan to the tiny village of Paul Kru.
I had no idea what to expect on my first trip to Côte d’Ivoire. Adrien Kouadio, a farmer, husband and father of four, would be the subject of our new video about his life and his Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farm.
I’ve always loved chocolate–but I’d never actually seen a cocoa pod or witnessed the processing of the beans until my visit to the village of Paul Kru, located in the heart of the rainforest in the cocoa belt of West Africa.
Paul, the eldest villager and the father of Adrien, stood proud in the village square of the town that was named after him. He instructed his sons and grandsons to set up a row of chairs for us and we sat opposite Adrien and the villagers. Introductions were made on each side. We discussed our intentions, hopes and expectations for the film shoot.
Over the next four days, Adrien opened up his farm and his family life to us. When he showed us the new trees he had planted to provide shade for his cocoa trees, we witnessed his pride in creating a better environment. We saw his joy as he reached for a perfect green and yellow cocoa pod hanging from a tree and held it against the sun like a medal of honor.
We marched with him through the forest to a spot in the shade where he and his brothers cut the pods with wooden hammers, toss the seeds in a pile and ferment them by wrapping them in a banana leaf.
We saw how Adrien and his wife Marie-Laure work side-by-side to carefully choose the best cocoa seeds to dry. With each step, they are building a better life for themselves and their children. Their work ethic and love for the land is contagious. I’ll never look at chocolate in the same way again.
On the last day, after Adrien returns from the cooperative where he’s dropped off his last bags of cocoa beans, he holds his receipt high in the air and says, “Thank God for the Rainforest Alliance. I get more money for my [cocoa] beans. They are healthy. They are bigger. This is the way it should be.”
He is proud, grateful and hopeful that things will only continue to improve.
I hope our film opens your eyes to Adrien’s spirit, commitment, openness and love for his wife and children. I know I won’t look at chocolate the same way again—and I hope you won’t, either.
Thanks to commitments from leading brands like Mars, Unilever, Kraft and Hershey, the Rainforest Alliance’s certification work in Côte d’Ivoire has experienced remarkable growth. Over the last six years, 85,000 Ivorian farms covering more than one million acres (410,000 hectares) have become Rainforest Alliance Certified. A 2012 study found that net income on these farms was 291 percent higher than on noncertified farms. Companies now recognize that environmental, social and economic sustainability are essential to securing the global cocoa supply—and that Rainforest Alliance certification can help to accomplish these goals.