Farming is a difficult line of work. On any given day, a cocoa farmer might be tending their trees, manually harvesting pods, fermenting the wet beans, sorting beans as they dry, managing pests, maintaining farming equipment and supplies, and dealing with the ever-changing realities of climate change.
On top of that already difficult work, gender-based inequality is a serious problem in agriculture. Simple acts – like being able to access loans or credit, own your own land or control the money you earned – are not rights afforded to women all over the world.
Despite these tremendous obstacles, Carmen Mueses is defying the odds. She is a cocoa farmer and member of the CONACADO cooperative in the Dominican Republic. By joining a Fairtrade certified co-op, Carmen has been able to tap into their collective bargaining power when it comes to cocoa pricing. Through this, she has secured a better price for her cocoa making it possible to achieve her goals of scaling production and diversifying her crops. Carmen’s resilience doesn’t stop there. She has demonstrated ingenuity in her efforts to make a living from her crops by starting a small business selling sweets and liqueurs made with her cocoa pods and growing coffee beans to diversify her income.
Cultivating cocoa in community
For Carmen, cocoa isn’t just about her own business. It’s about the community working and thriving together. You can see this in the way that she has revived a once abandoned plot of land near her farm – cultivating the land to become fruitful once again. You can see this in the way her neighbors come together during harvest season to help one another pick their cocoa. This idea even extends to the CONACADO cooperative as well, which has used their Fairtrade Premium to provide electricity and invest in community-driven projects.
Zooming out even further, shoppers in the US are directly participating in this community by purchasing products like Fran’s Chocolates that were made with beans from Fairtrade certified farms like Carmen’s!
We are working in a community based on trust and equality to earn a fair price for all of our farmers where there is no difference based on gender.
Carmen Mueses, cocoa farmer from the Dominican Republic
Bringing Carmen’s story to Tacoma
We are inspired by Carmen and all that she does – not only for her own family – but also for community. To honor her hard work, we co-created a mural with Mari Shibuya at the Central Co-op in Tacoma. We hope that this mural helps shed light on the hard working people that spend their lives cultivating food we eat every day.
Fairtrade partner and woman-owned business Fran’s Chocolates has been dedicated to high ethical, social, and environmental standards since opening in 1982. They build lasting and transparent relationships with their suppliers and source certified Fairtrade and Organic ingredients whenever possible. In 2016, Fran’s Chocolates began formalizing their long-held commitment to ethical sourcing through FLOCERT Fairtrade and USDA Organic certifications. Annually, 95% of the chocolate, 100% of the cane sugar, and 100% of the Dutch cocoa powder used at Fran’s Chocolates is certified Fairtrade. By volume, 95% of all ingredients used in their confections are certified Organic.
Mari Shibuya specializes in murals and artwork focused on equity and collaboration. It is her mission to ignite optimism for the wellbeing of the planet and for the most marginalized communities. Mari believes that only through valuing and empathizing with one another we can truly move towards a liberated world.
Mari is thrilled to partner with Fairtrade to help uplift farmers for the future of our planet. She believes that fostering leadership roles and representation for women cultivates a more empathetic, cooperative and compassionate world. Mari is inspired by the strength and determination of the female leaders in farming communities, like Carmen.
Established in 1978, Central Co-op is a community-owned natural foods cooperative with locations on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and in Tacoma’s North End. With over 14,000 members, Central Co-op is a full-service grocery store, open to all, that encourages its shoppers and community members to “Bring the Bigger Story to Your Table,” and works to highlight the crucial connections between the food we all eat and the producers, farmers, and food systems that provide it. The Co-op is dedicated to supporting over 140 community partners, championing small farmers, vendors & producers, and working to increase access to quality foods for all, while offering exceptional products that reflect our commitment to healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, fair wages and safe worker conditions, conscientious ranching and fishing practices, and more.