Last month, the world’s top two cocoa producers, Ivory Coast and Ghana, teamed up to impose a minimum floor price that chocolate companies must pay if they want to access their more than 60% share of global supply. Reuters delved deeper into the agreement which is attempting to ease pervasive farmer poverty that has become a blight on chocolate’s image and a threat to the sector’s future in West Africa. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Reuters journalist Ange Aboa gives a behind-the-scenes look at how he and Joe Bavier reported the story.
Q: How did you score this insight? How did you get started on this story?
A: At the beginning of the discussion between Ivory Coast and Ghana two years ago, Joe Bavier and I first began talking about this. When those discussions finally led to the Accra Agreement on June 12, I proposed we do an analysis of the impact of the agreement on the lives of the two countries’ farmers, and I asked Joe to work with me on it.
Q: What types of reporting were involved?
A: It was a team effort with Joe. He proposed the angle, and once on the ground I spoke to the farmers. Over years of reporting on the cocoa sector in West Africa, I’ve built up contacts all over the rural areas of Ivory Coast and Ghana and farmers like to talk to me. They like to have someone to listen to them. I spoke to a number of farmers in both countries for this story and shot videos of the interviews and the conditions in which they work.
Q: What was the hardest part of the reporting?
A: The hardest for me was just trying to imagine the real impact of this agreement on the lives of farmers. For decades they’ve been so poor, isolated and neglected by their governments that I really wondered how a simple increase in the price companies pay for beans was going to pull them out of poverty.
Q: Why was this an important story to tell our customers?
A: I thought we should do it because there were a lot of grey areas that this agreement didn’t spell out. The agreement talked about a floor price and reducing poverty, but those at the center of this whole thing weren’t given a voice. No one asked for their point of view. They needed to be asked their opinion and have it brought into the light.
Q: What makes you passionate about journalism?
A: My passion for journalism came from my trips upcountry in Africa and my direct contact with the action. I love this job because you show what is and what must be.
Q: What is your beat and what do you find most fulfilling about it?
A: I cover economic news, politics and the military in Ivory Coast, in addition to the cocoa sectors In Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon. But I also covered the coup d’etat in Central African Republic in 2012 and 2013. I love being upcountry, being in contact with the farmers and telling the stories of their lives and the reality on the ground.
Q: What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a journalist?
A: There have been a lot of experiences, but I’d say that covering the crisis in Central African Republic in 2012 and 2013 is to this day my greatest joy. I was deployed without any previous knowledge of the place and I succeeded in doing a job that my bosses really appreciated. We had scoops and good information ahead of the competition. What I’ve liked less is losing to the competition on commodities stories. I love competition, and I want to be the best.