What an adventure! On my first working day at gebana I took a plane to Lome, Togo.
Just arrived, I realize that this country loves procedures and administration. As a sign of respect, people love calling each other by their status (for example ‘Mr. President’ or ‘Mr. Manager’) and often use “Sir” before calling each other by their surname. People in good positions are usually extremely well dressed (I actually never wore the shorts I brought with me!!).
In terms of religion, more than half of people are animist, 30% Christian and 20% Muslims. They currently all live together in harmony. Beliefs are really important in Togo, and it is very common to hear that some people can “put a spell on you” if you don’t agree or act in the way they want it (which can create some difficulties between actors in the supply chain).
People are very friendly, open minded, and curious about people from abroad. In villages, it is really common to hear kids singing “yovo yovo bonsoir” (yovo being a nickname to call white people).
It is also very common to see big “advertisements” of the president in the streets. When you leave the country, there is a huge picture of him shaking (your) hand. The family Gnassingbé has been managing the country for more than 44 years.
In terms of infrastructure, the country still has a long way to go. There are few paved roads, electricity coverage is really low, and most people are very poor. For instance when I went to Kpalimé (4th biggest city in Togo) I had no internet connection for almost three days – and if there’s a connection, the only time in the day that you will be able to load video is between 12pm and 6am when the network is not saturated. Transportation is also chaotic and a 2-3 hour drive can turn into a day drive due to a engine failure, a tire punctures, or other issues.
The managing team is young, cultivated, responsible and motivated to create long term relationships with the producers. gebana Togo is the only company exporting organic certified Cocoa products out of Togo and it creates enthusiasm for many companies and NGOs to start collaborating with us. gebana Togo is a young structure exporting cocoa, soy and dried pineapple having achieved good volumes in a few months operations. The quality control realized on spot is good and all products are manually selected to fulfill European import standards. Also the logistic is well organized in order the products are not stocked long time in the same area but shipped as soon as possible.
However, working in Togo is really challenging and gebana Togo is facing some difficulties. For instance, the need to control in the supply chain is a key point as many actors have really short-term thinking, and could potentially think about their personal short term interests rather than a more prosperous long term relationship. There are surely many reasons that could explain this point (intense poverty, absence of long term business partners, current business actors without humanity, too short term actions of NGOs, etc.). Therefore the control of the collaboration between the producer and his cooperative is most important in order to be sure that the producers will be paid correctly and receive an extra premium for supplying organic/FLO certified products.
gebanas goal is to get as close as possible to the producers giving them the opportunity to access to an international market and get payed a fair price. From my perspective, regarding cocoa and part of the soy, gebana Togo is accomplishing this mission successfully.
In order to increase the volumes especially in soy gebana Togo is currently working with external partner organizations. The objective is to develop strong and close collaboration with these new partners. But it will take time to be able to have the possibility to impact on the entire supply chain all the way to the farmer.
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Smallholders and local producers harvest and refine products of extraordinary quality worldwide. But for many of these producers there is no adequate or stable market. You can buy directly from these producers via the Access to Market Platform and help them to participate in the market. The principle behind this is crowd ordering – a new trade model whereby a number of consumers order a product together so as to achieve a minimum order quantity. We at gebana support the producers with our know-how, and organise the logistics.
Enable someone to make their first export with your order. Please note: Unexpected events often lead to delays, and you may find that the quality is not yet perfect. For this reason, your feedback is absolutely essential. The export experience and your feedback are important steps for the producers towards accessing the market. As a customer, you are witness to the whole process, playing your part in pioneering work.
You can order from these producers simply and directly. You receive your product as soon as the minimum order quantity has been reached and the products are ready. The risk for you is minimal, since the producers already have a product that is ready for market. This sales channel is beneficial to both the producers and the consumers, since it cuts out the middle man.
Be part of the development of supply chains and support innovation! Some of the ways you can do this include testing new products, giving feedback, or financially supporting the producers in their next steps. In doing so, you will be able to see for yourself how the products and supply chains develop.
This is where you can see all the completed projects on the Access to Market Platform at a glance. You can find out where products are now available from or whether the producers are still seeking a trade partner.