Out West to Keynsham

28 February 2009

On Thursday James and Anane headed off out of London on a fast train to Bath Spa. We were on our way to hook up with Steve Faragher – Fairtrade coordinator for the Bath and North East Somerset district – who had put a great programme together to celebrate the Fortnight.

We were off to spend the day in Keynsham – a Fairtrade town between Bath and Bristol – with an extremely productive and energetic Fairtrade team.  Keynsham boasts a flagship Co-op supermarket store – and that’s where we headed first.  Rachel Ward – the Keynsham Fairtrade coordinator met us there, with members of her and Steve’s team.  We were incredibly impressed with this store – light, airy and spacious and nicely designed – and its commitment to Fairtrade manifest everywhere.  The cafe walls are decorated with a permanent display of lovely photographs of Fairtrade crops – including bananas, coffee, tea and cocoa, each with a short profile on where the Co-op sources their Fairtrade products from.

Anane and James with Councillor David Berlotti

Anane and James with Councillor David Berlotti

A reception gathered – and we were joined by B&NES councillor David Berlotti, complete with splendid chains of office, and his young daughter Emelia perched on his hip.  He welcomed Divine and the farmers and declared his commitment to Fairtrade now and for the future.  We spoke of the Co-op being the first to commit to Fairtrade – and how integral it was to their philosophy – as was obvious in the newly designed store.  We explained that several years ago the Co-op had made the decision to convert all its own-brand chocolate to Fairtrade, and had partnered with Divine to make it happen.  The farmers told their story holding everyone captivated – and asked everyone to keep on buying their chocolate so that they could keep building better lives for themselves, their families and community.

The Co-op cafe then pulled out all the stops with a special chicken and rice lunch – not normally on the menu – but created exclusively for their Ghanaian guests.

James and Anane with the Co-op cafe staff in Keynsham

James and Anane with the Co-op cafe staff in Keynsham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to Chandag Primary School where over 200 children were gripped by the story of where cocoa comes from, and how Fairtrade is improving lives of cocoa farmers.  We showed them the short film too – transporting everyone to Ghana for six minutes.  There was a riot of questions afterwards “how long does it take for a pod to ripen”, “what makes the beans go brown”, “how long is it from when the pod is cut down to when the chocolate arrives here in the shops?”.  There was a big moan when we had to wrap up – so many questions still to ask.
James and Anane outside Chandag School

James and Anane outside Chandag School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel had then arranged for us to meet Lesley Bowes – a local farmer in Keynsham Chewton.  Lesley showed us her 40 acre farm which she manages alone – and where she breeds beef cattle, pigs and some sheep.  James and Anane were really interested to meet her and talk about farming – size of land (Lesley’s would be a very big farm in Ghana – but here it’s categorised as small), price of fertiliser (all the farmers agreed costs were rocketing), and sustainability of farming for a local market.  We met Lesley’s extremely handsome black Aberdeen Angus cows, and her very frisky and sociable pigs (James and Anane commented on how big the cows are here – even taking into consideration they were all pregnant!). 

Anane and James with Lesley Bowes and her Aberdeen Angus cows

Anane and James with Lesley Bowes and her Aberdeen Angus cows

Lesley then treated us all to home made scones with cream and jam – perfect.

Back to the Co-op, where we sampled more chocolate, and met Keynsham Councillor Chris Davis, followed by an informal chat with the farmers. We thanked everyone for being such wonderful hosts and keeping Fairtrade top of the agenda in Bath and North East Somerset.

Steve then took us home for a really wonderful home-made Ghanaian supper – chicken in groundnut sauce – a triumph.  With profuse thanks James and Anane headed off to bed. Posted by Charlotte


What a day in Croydon!

26 February 2009
Divine, Kuapa Kokoo and the Co-op enjoying Croydon!

Divine, Kuapa Kokoo and the Co-op enjoying Croydon!

We had a fantastic day in Croydon being looked after by the Croydon Fairtrade Network and Croydon Council.  Anane and James were up early in the morning to catch the train from London Bridge. We were met by the wonderfully organised Chris Hunt dressed in a rather fetching traditional Ghanaian outfit and we were whisked over to the Croydon College for the first event.
 
Kuapa Kokoo farmers meet the Body Shop for a hand massage

Kuapa Kokoo farmers meet the Body Shop for a hand massage

Deborah Clement at Croydon Council organised a business breakfast with an audience of 30 local businesses from the Envibe database, an organisation set up by the council dedicated to making positive ethical change to businesses in Croydon.

The Body Shop talked first about how their cocoa butter products have been using Kuapa Kokoo butter for over 15 years through their community trade scheme. The farmers were delighted to receive a hand massage from one of the Body Shop consultants after the talk.

Divine spoke next and introduced both farmers who gave an interesting talk about growing cocoa and how Fairtrade had impacted their lives. They made a passionate plea to the businesses to continue supporting and buying Divine chocolate and the Body Shop cocoa butter. In the audience was the Minister of Trade from the Ghana Commission, George Fynn, who was delighted to hear the farmers’ story.

Anane and James with George Fynn

Anane and James with George Fynn

After the event we had a nice cup of Fairtrade tea and some Traidcraft biscuits whilst speaking to a few local activist supporters. Then we attended a lecture with some A Level Business Study students at the Croydon College. They were a noisy bunch but as soon as the farmers started talking you could hear a pin drop! And there’s nothing like free chocolate to get students excited!

Following the college we visited the Trinity School and gave two workshops to over 200 boys. We played the fantastic Pa pa pa Bingo game with the 13-15 year olds and hearing them all shout out ‘Pa pa pa!’ at the end made us all smile!

Dinner followed the school and we were guests of the Ghanaian restaurant Gold Coast in West Croydon. The lovely chef James took good care of us and the farmers were pleased to meet some members of the Ghanaian community including a gorgeous bubbly lady called Love. We dined on Jollof Rice, Yams, Fu fu and chicken curry. The farmers felt home-from- home and the Divine staff loved trying lots of new flavours!

James presents the Croydon Mayor with a thank you box of Divine chocolates

James presents the Croydon Mayor with a thank you box of Divine chocolates

After the restaurant we visited the Town Hall and met Robert Askey, Croydon Mayor to thank him for his support with Fairtrade. James made a wonderful presentation of two boxes of chocolate to the Mayor which was very moving. Croydon was the first London borough to announce Fairtrade status and have a tireless bunch of Fairtrade campaigners who continue to do fantastic work.

To finish the day, we visited a Ghanaian church called the Bible Life Ministries Church. We received such a warm welcome from the Ghanaian community and both the Divine staff and farmers had a memorable evening. At one point a Ghanaian hymn was sung which the farmers knew. The congregation and the farmers stood up and started dancing and singing at the front. It was such a wonderful moment of the farmers and UK Ghanaians joined together in celebration of Fairtrade. It was very emotional to be a part of it.

When we finally dragged the farmers away from the church, we all drove back with Matt from the Co-op and even managed to squeeze in a quick drive by tour of London including House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St Pauls Cathedral, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.  Matt gave a running history of London and was a great tour guide. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Divine Chocolate and the farmers would like to say a special thank you to Chris Hunt, Rosa Shea, Caroline Pattison, Diana Battaglia, William Quagraine, Deborah Clement, Matt Hale and everyone for making our tour to Croydon so fantastic. Posted by Laura Blake


An educational day in Kingston

25 February 2009

Jeanette and Doug James, the engine at the heart of Kingston’s energetic Fairtrade movement, organised a brilliant programme for cocoa farmers in collaboration with two local schools and Kingston University.

First stop was St Joseph’s Catholic School where a rather special Assembly had been planned.  James and Anane were impressed to see the facilities available to young children in schools here. James used to be a teacher, before taking up cocoa farming full time  and so had a particular interest in how children are taught here.

James and Anane split their presentation to the hall full of young children – telling them all about how cocoa is grown and how the Fairtrade deal makes a difference to their lives. Sara (aka Head of Dubble HQ) had devised a brilliant game of  “Papapaa Bingo” – giving all the children a table of images for them to spot in a film about cocoa farming. They had to watch the film and mark each off the items (a dog, a cocoa pod, a red t-shirt etc) as they saw them. It was a huge success.

Lots of questions after – including “Why do you speak differently?” and “How did you get here?” – and then the promise of a Dubble bar at home-time – with a whole new understanding of where that chocolate had come from.

Anane and James with our host Jess at The Rose

Anane and James with our host Jess at The Rose

Then lunch – hosted by the very kind Jess at The Rose Theatre in Kingston.  The Rose sells Fairtrade coffee, tea, wine and of course Divine. A very nice place to chill for an hour.

Then on to Christchurch School in Berrylands – where two assemblies were organised.  The story of cocoa had the children transfixed.  Particularly the news that farmers had to be very careful or they could be killed by snakes or scorpions.  Chocolate is a dangerous treat to make!!

Having sent over 500 children home buzzing with their new found knowledge and tales of real cocoa farmers, we drive on to Kingston University where Fairtrade co-ordinator Hannah had laid on an evening event for a diverse audience of geography, international development and sustainable development students and tutors.  It being Shrove Tuesday we were offered a fantastic spread of filled pancakes – spinach, followed by melted chocolate and banana filled wraps.

Anane and James at Kingston University

Anane and James at Kingston University

Not surprisingly our presentation here was followed by over an hour of questions and answers – talking about free vs fair trade, the potential for other farmers to form themselves into a similar kind of cooperative, how much the Ghanaian government was doing to support farming and agriculture in the country, and why it was still only 10% of Kuapa’s cocoa being sold on Fairtrade terms….

While he was there, James picked up the Kingston University prospectus to take home for his son who would like to continue his business studies. Posted by Charlotte


Fairtrade Fortnight Launch – Ireland

24 February 2009
Irish business leaders at the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight 2009

Irish business leaders at the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight 2009

Today at Iveagh House, Dublin, (the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters), I met Mr. Peter Power T.D. Minister of State for Overseas Development at a Fairtrade reception for Irish business leaders.


James & Anane talk to schoolchildren at the Museum of Docklands

24 February 2009

By James and Anane’s watches our 9am pickup already signalled mid-morning – they’re used to rising at 5am back on their farms in Ghana. Despite their 3165 mile journey from Accra in Ghana over to London the previous morning they were all set for an action packed day.  Struck by the manic pace of London’s rush-hour traffic and watching harried commuters bustle to work, all the sites and sounds of our big city were absorbing them when we arrived at their hotel to pick them up.

But there was no time to tarry for we were off to the Museum of London Docklands (http://www.museumindocklands.org.uk/English/). En route we showed the two farmers some of London’s tallest and most iconic buildings in Canary Wharf.  James and Anane were then greeted by 34 primary school children from five local schools who were keen to quiz the farmers about every aspect of life as Ghanaian Fairtrade cocoa farmers.  The Q&A session was filmed and will be turned into a DVD and then be sent to the five schools, allowing the pupils to share their experiences with the rest of their classmates.  The teachers from the five schools were also given the chance to talk to the farmers and the Divine team and were enthusiastic about the impact and relevance of engaging their schools in Fairtrade.

James and Anane at the Docklands Museum

James and Anane at the Docklands Museum

Chocolate can’t fail but go down a treat so every schoolchild was thrilled to be given a bar of Dubble (Divine’s sister chocolate brand which was launched by Divine and Comic Relief especially for children: www.dubble.co.uk).  The children were particularly excited to be eating a bar of chocolate which they had learnt so much about – knowing the raw product had been grown by farmers like James and Anane doubled their pleasure of the chocolatey treat.  Some gorgeous Divine chocolate was also shared out amongst the teachers for them to take back to their schools.  There was just time for a quick guided tour around the museum before the farmers were taken to Christian Aid’s offices for a lunchtime presentation for members of staff and supporters at Christian Aid.

posted by Rosanna


James and Anane arrive in the UK

23 February 2009
James and Anane arrived from Ghana early in the morning on Sunday – the first time they’d left Ghana – and their first flight! They spent the morning acclimatising (no-one can ever really prepare them for how cold it’s going to be!) – and then into town for the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight.

Looking out of the car windows, everything amazed them – but particularly the houses. “Why do they all look the same?” “Is the government responsible for supplying them to everyone?” The fact that most of the houses we were passing were over 100 years old knocked them out!

an opportunity to sample some delicious Divine chocolate

An opportunity to try delicious Divine chocolate

 Down on the SouthBank the Fairtrade Fortnight fun family day was in full swing – with lots of bananas running around, a friendly cow and lots of happy people sampling chocolate, fudge, candy floss, coffee and more. James and Anane gave their first presentation (with speaker’s nerves!) and told an appreciative audience in the Producers Tent all about life as a cocoa farmer and the changes in their lives in the 10 years since Divine was born.

Running in an egg and spoon race ended what must have been rather a surreal first day in the UK.

Anane meets a mango farmer from Burkina Faso

Anane meets a mango farmer from Burkina Faso

And there’s a packed schedule to come – and we and the farmers will be reporting everday.  This year we’ll be visiting schools all over the country and hundreds of children will hear and meet James and Anane and hear about what goes on behind their favourite chocolate treats.  Schoolchildren will be reporting from these events over the Fortnight at www.learnthings.co.uk – just use Username – fairtrade and Password – divine – to see what they say. Posted by Charlotte


Meet the farmers

19 February 2009

Divine Chocolate is delighted to have two cocoa farmers from Kuapa Kokoo visiting and touring the UK this Fairtrade Fortnight. They are –

anane-mensah-kuapa-jan-2009-091

Mr Anane Mensah, aged 41, is Kuapa Kokoo’s Area President for the Enchi region. He is also a Recorder; a highly respected role which is of vital importance to the structure and organisation of Kuapa Kokoo. Only those who are trusted across the community and are fellow farmers are elected to take on the role of a Recorder which involves accurately weighing the cocoa and paying farmers the correct price accordingly. Mr Mensah is married with two children.

james-adiyiah-kuapa-jan-2009

Mr James Adiyiah, aged 62, is the Recorder for the Kokofu community. He is married with seven children. He and his family have benefitted greatly from Kuapa and Fairtrade – he has been able to educate his children, several of whom are now studying at university. His community has also seen some real benefits. A number of local women have received financial loans via Kuapa which they have invested in soap-making and tie-dye cottage industries. Encouraging women’s empowerment through investing in diversification schemes such as these remain key to Kuapa Kokoo’s ethos.


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