About the Region
The Gola Rainforest in the eastern part of Sierra Leone is the country's largest rainforest and is inhabited by lush greenery, expansive views, and a multitude of wildlife that call it home. This forest alone supports more than 330 species of birds and 49 different species of mammals, and it offers protection to more than 60 of the world’s most threatened species. Unfortunately, this region has been exploited heavily in the past for its rich wealth of diamonds, gold, and iron ore. In 2019, Sierra Leone was ranked as the ninth poorest country in the world, and the communities around the Gola Rainforest are some of the poorest in the entire country.
In 1990 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, in the UK, pushed to create the official Gola Rainforest National Park, and more recently the Gola Rainforest cocoa project has helped transform the lives of the 140,000 or so people who live in the area, focusing on producing high-quality cocoa beans for the specialty market.
The Gola Rainforest Alliance
In 2015, cocoa farmers in this region came together to form the Goleagorbu Cocoa Producers Organization (“Goleagorbu” means “we who live in the forest” in Mende). With 1,871 members and a focus on environmental sustainability, transparency, and the fair treatment of farmers, the GCPO has changed local economics significantly. For example, Juma Koroma, a GCPO treasurer, told BirdLife International, ““I used to sell cocoa to other traders in the area. Traders would often cheat us; they never allowed the scales to face me, so I couldn’t see the weight of my cocoa and had no idea what price I should expect. I have now learnt to read the scales myself and know what I deserve for my cocoa.”
1,871 farmers are specially trained in agroforestry skills, which promote the growth and habitat of endangered species such as certain birds, butterflies, and chimpanzees. The way they sustainably incorporate cacao trees along the edge of the forest, work in alliance with other environmentally focused groups, and farm specially for habitat conservation allows the forest to remain a national park while they produce incredible-tasting beans. We’re beyond excited to use these beans in our single-origin Sierra Leone bar, proving that high-quality African cocoa does exist, and that so much potential and positive change can be created by partnering with these types of farms.
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