I travelled to Ghana last week for meetings with Kuapa Kokoo (we’re working on more synergy between our Ghana, UK and USA communications, and I had an update on the workshops Kuapa has been running on climate change). I was also meeting up with Comfort Kumeah, the Chair of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust, at her village an hour or so west of Kumasi. There will be many people both in UK and USA that will remember meeting Comfort – as she’s become a well-travelled ambassador for Kuapa Kokoo and Divine, and has shared all her learning about the chocolate market and attitudes to ethical shopping with her colleagues and community back in Ghana.
Adim Mensah, President of his local Kuapa Kokoo society, in his funeral robes
There was a big funeral and a big wedding going on in the village on the same day so everyone was dressed up – either in black for the funeral, or in the Sunday best for the wedding. Funerals are a very big deal in Ghana – with people all but bankrupting themselves to buy a good coffin, put on a really good ceremony, and invite the whole community.
Within minutes of arriving all the kids in the village were excitedly drawing us pictures of what they had been doing at school – lots of detailed diagrams of plants (particularly cocoa trees) with all their parts clearly labelled.
The walk to Comfort's farm
We spent most of the day on Comfort’s farm which was about a mile and a half’s walk out of the village. We’d had to wait till Saturday to go as there is a taboo preventing women crossing the stream between the village and her farm on Fridays. It was beautiful walk and we were glad of the wellies we’d been given – at the bottom of the valley it was pretty muddy – there’s been some heavy downpours recently.
The palm nut crusher bought with Fairtrade premiums
Comfort's cocoa farm
We walked around the farm – with Comfort pointing out the boundaries, marked by evergreen bushes, and sometimes with pineapples. The harvest is well and truly underway, with the first batch of ripe pods already mostly picked – and the next wave starting to turn yellow now. Nicholas pointed out how there was a particular good distribution of tall rainforest trees across Comfort’s farm – giving the right amount of shade and protection above the cocoa trees.
Cassava, plantain and a machete
We had chicken, tilapia, plantain and jollof rice for lunch with some very good spicey sauces. Comfort showed us some ‘sweet apples’ – some very nobbly fruits about the size of a small melon – I’ve tried to look it up since I got home but haven’t found it yet. For afters we handed out bars and gold coins of Divine for everyone.
We left with everyone preparing for the evening’s parties – and were sent off with all the drawings the children had done.
Back in Accra, waiting for our flight home, we saw a glimpse of a different slice of Ghanaian life – a cosmopolitan group of young Ghanaian students, Lebanese business men, NGO representatives and diplomats’ wives and families – all enjoying a day off on Sunday round a swimming pool.