Cocoa and coffee beans are mostly grown by smallholder farmers. The organization in cooperatives is a good way to guarantee fair prices and to enhance the transfer of knowledge to the farmers. We work closely together with over 13.000 contracted and registered farmers in Sierra Leone’s smallholder cocoa and coffee sector. The majority of the farmers is UTZ, fairtrade and organic certified. Balmed monitors several cooperatives in Sierra Leone. One of the biggest is the "Millenium Cocoa Growers Cooperative" (MCGC). The cooperative has over 7000 members in Kono and Kailahun District. All members received intensive training on farmmanagement, sustainable agriculture standarts and certification from several NGO´s and development agencies. The participating farmers are certified against the international Fairtrade standarts certified by FLO-CERT.
NO CHILD LABOUR
Our strict rules of production and our consciousness do prohibit child labour in all steps of production. Education is the key to development in third world countries: Children, dragooned into working, do not become valuable members of society. Child labour, in the long run, leads to a weak society and prevents economic growth. A school with well trained staff is the best place to be for a child and certainly not cocoa and coffee plantations. Therefore our cocoa and coffee is harvested with man and woman power, not child power!
FARMER FIELD SCHOOLS
A skilled and well trained team is essential for producing high quality products. Balmed provides trainings for its complete staff. Regular farmgroup meetings offer a good platform for farmers and fieldworkers to share their experience and techniques with others. What is more is that these meetings enable the spread of knowledge in the community and encourage other farmers, by showing them the benefits of quality production, to improve their cultivation. Considering the fact that 70% of the farmers are illytrists, the main emphasis lies on the transmission of practical knowledge. Training at Farmer Field Schools focuses on courses in pruning ,drying techniques and farm management. The training-material, that is used for the lessons is foccussed on illiterists, by using pictures and videos. In 2012 we establish video-centers for communities and build up local camerateams, that will report news from the villages and show off their movies at the farmgroup meetings. The video-centers are used for entertainment, like football broadcast or daily news, too.