Over to our man in the field: Tayoro sinks his teeth in
In 2019, we launched the collaboration with Ivory Coast cocoa cooperative CPR Canaan. The product from this collaboration is the Bite to Fight chocolate range. We pay an extra premium directly to the farmers for the cocoa in these bars.
Julien Tayoro (30) is our very own field agent: he trots from the office to the cocoa fields and village and back again. He keeps tabs on things on a daily basis. His presence, knowledge and enthusiasm inspire confidence and he’s proud of that, rightfully so. “When I was young, I experienced first hand how hard you have to fight to overcome poverty. I hope to inspire and motivate other young people and their parents to make the right choices.”
Confidence is key
It’s 8 a.m. when we meet the cheerful Tayoro for a short interview. Shortly after our talk, his day in the fields begins. His visits the plantations, talks to and verifies the personnel, meticulously documents, advises, listens and gives feedback. In other words: he is the face of Oxfam and the CPR Canaan cooperative, of which the farmers are all members. A rarity, because most of the farmers never meet their customers. “My presence is important and encourages trust,” says Tayoro. “This way the farmers see that Canaan really exists. This is often not the case. Many of the world’s chocolate moguls have never even seen a cocoa pod up close…”
Tayoro’s motivation for the Bite to Fight (for a fair income) project was spurred on by his own experience. “I lost my father, who was also a cocoa farmer, but you’re a planter’s child for life. It’s just very difficult to escape this vicious circle of poverty.” Thanks to the financial support of his older brother, who was working abroad, Tayoro was able to go to university. And get two master’s degrees. Because he grew up without food security, he was adamant about doing something about this. “Development work was my highest priority,” he says.
In his quest for the right project and a suitable organisation to support, he ended up at Ecookim, the umbrella organisation for cocoa farmers which Canaan is part of. He began working with them and saw a – to us – very familiar logo on many of the documents he encountered. “Oxfam!” he says with a big grin. “I started researching all the things Oxfam did and immediately knew that we were a match made in heaven.”
Nearly there … but not quite
“The concept of a living income, which is central to the Bite to Fight project, is essential to the farmers,” Tayoro confirms. “We see a positive effect of paying the premium to the farmers in cash: they invest it. We then look at which investments pay off. Our joint accomplishments so far: growing trees and bushes for shade-grown cultivation, women’s education, building beehives, etc.”
Tayoro does remain cautious in his optimism though. “We still have a long way to go,” he says. “We haven’t reached our goal until parents can provide three square meals per day. One crucial aspect is stimulating solidarity between the farmers. This will allow us to evolve into a local fund that can finance mutual projects. Projects remain costly and we still struggle financially. Also, women need to be involved more.”
Tayoro is a big fan of transparency and has really taken on the role of spokesperson and confidant. “Bite to Fight shows us the positive effects of a small-scale and transparent way of working. That’s why I really advocate for supporting projects like this. And don’t hesitate to come and pay us a visit, everyone is welcome here!”