Sweet news from Kasinthula

5 March 2012

Did you know that all the Fairtrade sugar in Divine comes from Kasinthula Cane Growers Association in Malawi.  Masauko Khembo has travelled over from Kasinthula to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight here in UK. Here at Divine we’re looking forward to meeting him and hearing more about Kasinthula – but in the meantime we asked him a few questions….

Kasinthula women preparing seedcane

Kasinthula women preparing seedcane

KasinthulaCane GrowersAssociation (KCG) is a smallholder sugar cane projectlocated in the in hospitable Shire River Valley District of Chikhwawa in the south of Malawi.Long droughts occasionally result in famine and the twice-yearly rains frequently bring floods.Most families eke out a living growingmaize, cassava or rice on the arid land, whileothers earn cash from sugar cane or cotton or work on nearby sugar plantations. Poverty is rife with most people living in very basic mud huts and few able to afford to keep livestock.

Masauko visiting Divine Chocolate

Masauko visiting Divine Chocolate

What do you think of Divine Chocolate, which is made with Fairtrade sugar from Kasinthula?
Having tasted it I find it much better in terms of taste than those we buy at home which are made in South Africa. Divine Chocolate and other organisations that use Kasinthula Fairtrade sugar are like bringing divine intervention on reduction of poverty on Kasinthula farmers and surrounding communities. Lives of Kasinthula farmers and surrounding communities have really been transformed through FT.

What is the most important impact that being Fairtrade certified has made on the lives of sugar farmers in Malawi?

So much impact. Not only on sugarcane farmers but even the communities around the sugarcane farms. One example I would give is the primary school that has been constructed using Fairtrade premium funds. Before the school construction children had to walk more than 5km to the nearest school. For them to be able to walk such distance they had to be 7 or 8 years old. With the school they are able to start school at 5. Because of starting school late most girls could not complete primary school before getting married. With the school they will be in eighth grade which is the last in primary school at the age of 13. They should be able to go to secondary school before they think of getting married.

Kasinthula farmers are now living in better houses (brick walled and iron sheet roofed). Most of them have houses that are electrified. They now have access to portable water separating them from livestock in terms of sharing source of drinking water.

What are your hopes for the future – for you personally – and for Kasinthula? What is your message for people here in the UK (and the USA where Divine Chocolate is too)?
Personally my hope is to work for a bigger Kasinthula with more farmers than currently are. A bigger Kasinthula means more people getting out of a poverty trap. For the people in UK and US my message is buy more of Divine chocolate. There may be more brands of chocolate in the market but by buying Divine chocolate you are supporting famers and surrounding communities at Kasinthula. You are sponsoring construction of schools, improving maternal and child health of the people of Kasinthula, you are preventing sharing of drinking water between animals and people as people are now drinking from boreholes drilled using premium funds while animals continue drinking from rivers.


A Divine Experience at Kuapa Kokoo

8 February 2012

As the Brand Manager for Divine Chocolate USA, I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo for the first time.  Divine USA and Divine UK were both holding their Board meetings at the Kuapa Kokoo headquarters in Kumasi, Ghana and I was able to come along.  Before heading to Ghana, I made a pit stop in London where I was able to meet the trailblazing staff of Divine Chocolate Ltd. who I’ve been in touch with since the beginning of my work with Divine in Washington D.C.

The Divine UK headquarters

It was great to finally shake hands with the folks who I’ve been in touch with via phone and email for so long! I took some notes of several of the special features they had in their office that we could replicate in our own, such as the incredible spread of all of our flavors at the reception desk, and a conference room surrounded by posters and products from years past to inspire the many meetings and brainstorming sessions that occur in the Divine Headquarters.

After a crisp morning walking along the River Thames and one last photograph of Tower Bridge, I flew to Accra with the Divine Board of Directors, where we would have a short stay before heading to our final destination: Kumasi.  10 of us piled into a van in Accra and soon got stuck in some incredible traffic! Sitting in traffic did, however, provide us with the opportunity to be a captive audience to the vibrant scene of street merchants, church-goers, and soccer fans.  We were then off to the canopy walk above the trees of Kakum National Park.

But first, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant that was surrounded by a lake of crocodiles.  And for those of us brave enough, we had the opportunity to touch a crocodile lazing under the trees.

David Upton, Finance Director of Divine UK, gets close with a crocodile

Carol Wills, Board member of Twin Trading and Divine UK, crosses the forest canopy

Kakum National Forest was established in 1960 and covers 375 square km in the Central Region of Ghana.  Its highlight is the Canopy Walkway, made up of 7 different bridges towering above the forest floor.  It was a once in a lifetime experience to cross the canopy, and the 10 of us were thrilled to get this unique look at the landscape in this region.

The morning after arriving in Kumasi, we met at the Kuapa Kokoo offices where the staff gave us an overview of their key projects and introduced us to Esther, who would be our guide for the day.  We headed about an hour outside of the city to the Awaham Society in the Effiduase District.  We first stopped at the Juaben Depot, where the district manager showed us a warehouse piled high with cocoa sacks fresh from the harvest.

Sophi introduces herself to the Awaham Society

We gathered under a tree at Awaham Society, where we met some of the key leadership and listened to questions and feedback from farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo.  Awaham Society was first a sub-society, and after working hard for 5 years, they become a full society in 2005.  They spoke about the benefits of membership in Kuapa: a 2 Cedi (the Ghanaian currency) bonus on every sack of cocoa this season, new machetes, and credits for agricultural inputs that have improved yields year after year.

Juliet shows us her cocoa farm

Everyone headed into the cocoa farm of Executive Member Juliet Brago, who showed us her beautiful land filled with cocoa pods and interspersed with avocado trees and other grand shade trees that kept the cocoa plants growing strong.  We also visited the 12 acres of Mr. Anare Mensah, the oldest member of the society.  Nana Aggyei Bada showed us how the farmers break open the pods and ferment them inside banana leaves, carefully sealing the cocoa inside the leaves to ensure sufficient heat is created for fermentation to occur.

Nana Aggyei Bada shows us how the cocoa is fermented in banana leaves

Richard Agyapong shows us the drying process

Once the beans are fermented, they are brought back to the homes of farmers to dry- we were shown the process by Richard Agyapong, who churned the beans and picked out those of inferior quality.  The last thing we were shown was the corn mill that the society had bought through the assistance of Kuapa Kokoo 4 years ago.  Before the mill, farmers and community members would have to travel long distances to grind foodstuffs, but now they had a space in the center of the community to take care of it.  Isaac Kronkiye, the man who manages and maintains the mill, showed us the process.

Grinding corn in the mill

A very happy chocolate taster!

We thanked the farmers of Awaham Society for taking the time to show us the careful process of cocoa harvesting and share their stories of what it’s like to be members of Kuapa Kokoo.  We left them with a tub of milk chocolate to share amongst the community so that they could each have a taste of the chocolate company that they co-own.

The next couple of days were filled with meetings at the Kuapa Kokoo headquarters and seeing the sights of the incredible city of Kumasi.  Kumasi is home to the largest street market in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we were overwhelmed with the sights and smells of this bustling market. I also picked up a good amount of fabric to take home!

Just minutes before we hopped in the car to head to the airport, Monica Dadzie, the manager of Kuapa Kokoo’s gender program, showed us some incredible batik work that a women’s group had recently been working on- how Divine!

Divine batik fabric

My first trip to Kuapa Kokoo was a truly incredible experience, and after working at Divine Chocolate for just over a year now, my inspiration to share the Divine story to the consumers of the US is fully renewed.  Here’s to a fabulous 2012 for Divine Chocolate!

Kuapa Kokoo Farmer Leaders Visit the US

2 December 2011

In November, Divine Chocolate USA was thrilled to host two women leaders from Kuapa Kokoo.  Fatima Ali and Felicia Mensah braved the chilly autumn weather to travel through Washington DC and New York City, sharing the incredible story of 45,000 cocoa farmers changing the face of the chocolate industry.

Fatima Ali is a farmer with 5 acres of cocoa farm in the Western Region of Ghana.  At the age of 30, she is the youngest member of the National Executive Council of Kuapa Kokoo, which is the central leadership body of the farmers’ organization.  She serves as the National Secretary and is the Chair of the Kuapa Kokoo Trust, which determines how the premiums from Fair Trade are used each year.  She is the proud mother of a little boy, and provides extensive support to her father and brothers.

Fatima Ali in Times Square

Felicia Mensah is a farmer with 8 acres of land in the Western Region of Ghana.  She is 50 years old and is an executive member of her village society.  She is also the first woman President of her district, representing over 1,000 farmers.  Felicia has been a member of Kuapa Kokoo for over 15 years and has seen it grow not only in numbers but in the level of women’s participation.  She is now a leading voice for women’s empowerment in the cooperative.  She is the proud mother of three children, all of whom are working or finishing up their studies.

Felicia Mensah at the White House on a rainy afternoon

Here are some great highlights from their trip:

Fatima and Felicia’s first stop was at the World Bank, where they participated in a great conversation on cocoa sustainability in Ghana.  They told the story of N’nobua, which is a community tradition that means “if you help me, I will help you.”  During the cocoa harvest, friends and neighbors help one another gather the cocoa pods and break them open for fermentation.  During that time, farmers share best practices and inform one another of problems with productivity or pests.  Kuapa Kokoo uses this time as an opportunity for extension officers to provide vital training to farmers to improve yields and protect against any potential diseases.  This grassroots outreach strategy has had a tremendous impact on the sustainability of cocoa farms within Kuapa Kokoo.

Felicia and Fatima with World Bank staff

Fatima and Felicia then headed to New York City, where they met with the students of New York University and members of the New York City Fair Trade Coalition.  As NYU has a campus in Ghana, many of the students had visited Kuapa Kokoo in the past, and were eager to learn more about the cooperative’s latest projects.  Fatima told them about investments in three new schools and projects to fight child labor, while Felicia discussed microcredit initiatives for women.

Felicia presenting to the students at NYU

Back in Washington DC, the ladies met with the US Department of Labor to discuss their pioneering project with the ILO to combat the worst forms of child labor, and they spoke to a packed audience at a celebration of the launch of the UN’s International Year of Cooperatives.

Fatima and Felicia with staff at the Department of Labor

On their last evening, Fatima and Felicia gave a presentation at the Embassy of Ghana, where representatives congratulated them on their hard work and leadership in the cocoa sector.  They headed back to Ghana after 9 busy days, and we can’t thank them enough for their hard work and enthusiasm throughout the trip.

Felicia and Fatima at the Embassy of Ghana

Fairtrade and international women’s day celebrated at Labour event

10 March 2011

Sophi’s latest post:

Jennipher Wettaka

On Saturday I met Jennipher Wettaka at the Labour movement’s International Women’s Day Celebration in Westminster.  She is vice Chair of Gumutindo the co-operative of coffee growers in Eastern Uganda that supply Equal Exchange

Coffee from Jennipher's co-operative

Her smile was like a ray of sunshine as she described how women do most of the work and the men do not appreciate them, but that since their co-op has been successful the men have been much more interested! This filled the room with peels of laughter, an experience shared.  She was delighted to be here as an ambassador for her co-op and was looking forward to returning to Uganda to tell the women in the other villages of her experience.   She ended by plugging her coffee, thanking her friends at Equal Exchange.  Long Live Equal Exchange, Long Live Fairtrade, Long Live International Women’s Day.

Fairtrade and Women and Pancakes

9 March 2011

Fatima and Harriet in their Kuapa dresses at Oxford Town Hall

In Oxford today – this morning as guests of Mid-Counties Co-op at their Fairtrade Fair in the gloriously ornate Oxford Town Hall. After a Fairtrade fashion parade featuring models from 6 months to 60, and their first taste of pancakes, Kuapa farmers Harriet and Fatima presented their experience of farming and Fairtrade. There were lots of questions, photos, and then African drummers from Guinea (via Stourport).

Harriet and Fatima try their first pancakes

In the afternoon we jumped into a cab up to Oxfam GB (divine’s long time supporter and customer) to join their celebration of International Women’s Day. They were involving the staff in a day of talks and displays about gender issues worldwide (Oxfam is one of the NGOs contributing to the EQUALs compaign). Harriet and Fatima drew a big crowd, standing room only. This time they both gave much more personal stories about how membership of their co-operative had empowered them. They have achieved such great things and are inspiring role models for other young women in their communities. They were asked if there was any male backlash (sometimes men are jealous they say), about the size of their farms and cocoa prices. Later they were off to dinner with the buyers for all the Oxfam shops.

Fatima and Harriet at Oxfam GB
Fatima and Harriet with the Oxfam buyers Inma Andres and Sophie Brill

Sophi visits Kuapa villages in between Board meetings

9 February 2011
 Latest post from Sophi…

I’ve just been over to Ghana to attend the Divine UK and Divine USA board meetings at Kuapa Kokoo HQ in Kumasi.  I was travelling with other Board members, and our new Finance Director David Upton and new Chair Patrick Fleming, who were travelling to Ghana and being introduced to Kuapa Kokoo for the first time. 

The Kukurantumi Kuapa Kokoo women's group

On our way up to Kumasi from Accra, we visited Kukurantumi, a village near Suhum.  We were given a wonderful welcome from the Kuapa Kokoo society there – the womens’ groups sang songs about democracy and Kuapa, and showed us their soap-making project.  It was also a chance for David to see the cocoa fermentation process for the first time. Everyone gathered under the shade of the cocoa trees and we all introduced ourselves and had an interesting question and answer session where we all found out a lot about each other.

I asked how many members they had and the Secretary George Ofori said 200, who delivered 500 sacks of cocoa in 2009/10.  We met the society President MO Aboagye, and many others included AK Agyeman and Kwaku Ofori Ofosu-Apea.

Grace Osei, President of Kukurantumi Womens’ Society

I sat and talked to Grace Osei (65), president of the Women’s Society which has 32 members.  She has two cocoa farms 7 acres and 13 acres delivering 15 sacks of cocoa, and has nine children between 17 and 45 and nine grandchildren.  She has been a member of Kuapa for 13 years and attended the AGM in 2010 as a delegate.  She talked about how last year’s crop wasn’t as good as usual and she wants to make sure she gets one of the machetes that Kuapa is giving farmers.

Augustine Kusi, the Recorder at Ntinako, took us to his cocoa farm.  He told us about a hybrid that bears fruit quickly called “Akokora Bedi” which translates as “An old man will chop”.  Back at the Society office, the posters that Kuapa has produced as part of its Child Labour Awareness Programme were in full view pasted on the front of the society shed.

Augustine Kusi (Recorder), Yaw Sarfo (member), Francis Uaba (President) Ntinako society

David Upton was really pleased to have had the opportunity to go out to Ghana so soon after joining Divine.  “It was brilliant to be able to really connect myself with what this company is about and what we’re trying to achieve,” he says.

Divine’s new Chair Patrick Fleming discusses cocoa farming

David Upton discovers the joys of fresh cocoa beans



David’s first trip to Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana

4 January 2011

Day one: Heathrow to Amsterdam/ Accra
With 25kg of my 46kg luggage allowance taken up with Divine products, I had plenty of chocolate for the farmers; after all they’re the folk who put the hard work in to make sure the beans we use are of the best quality possible. A packed KLM flight and a short delay reduced our wait in Amsterdam to an hour and as we arrived at our gate we found Ger from Kinsale distribution and Melanie from Fairtrade mark Ireland just arrived in from Dublin. Quick introductions and then through security with the infamous full body scan! Our excitement overshadowed the turbulence we experienced flying over the Sahara and I couldn‟t quite believe that I was finally going to visit the cocoa farms and see for myself the positive impact Divine has on the farmer’s communities.
Arriving at Accra we collected our cases and changed £ for Cedi about (2.4= £1) and headed out for the shuttle bus to the Shangri-La hotel. The dark streets and roads were overflowing with people coming home from work in buses, taxis and tro-tros ( anything that’s not a bus or taxi ); people were selling everything from food , water, tissues, spanner sets and mobile phone holders amongst the traffic. The hotel was only a ten minute ride away; we all checked in, had a quick wash and met for a chat about what we all expected from the trip. For me this was the opportunity to see, touch, smell and generally immerse myself, albeit for a short time, in the motivating force behind my role as National account manager with Divine, and take some of what I experienced back to the UK.
Day two: Kuapa office
The day started at 5:30 in 21 degree heat with a mini bus trip through Accra polo club and to the domestic airport to take our flight to Kumasi. We had to endure a short wait sitting as close to the  fans as possible to keep cool and enjoying people-watching, seeing everything from oil riggers covered in tattoos, and business men dressed in smart suites. We all went through the security checks and boarded our small plane for the 35 min city link flight north to Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. Once airborne we got the chance to see the city from the air, giving a fantastic view of the village structure and nested groups of huts and farms.
We were met by Nicolas Adjei-Gyan from Kuapa Kooko who took us on a 30 min journey through the busy streets passing the Baba Yara stadium to drop our bags at the Rees hotel on Stadium Road and then round the corner to the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative HQ offices
Kuapa Kokoo co-operative office

David meets Nanna at the Kuapa offices

We were greeted by the whole team: Mr Buah (past president) Madam Christiana Ohene Agyare the new President, members of the executive and Nanna Kwaku Bio; there were some familiar faces –  I’ve met Comfort and Erica in UK and seen Kwabena on Skype.
After we introduced ourselves and our reasons for visiting Kuapa Kokoo co-operative I gave a chocolate tasting session that was translated so all could enjoy the masses of chocolate I had brought with me; they all loved the dark and raspberry chocolate.

Regiana gave us an excellent presentation on Kuapa Kokoo co-operative explaining why Kuapa Kokoo co-operative was set up, its values, aims and structure as well as the latest anti child labour programme that’s been rolled out this month to teach adults and protect children in the region. This was something I was particularly interested in seeing, given the recent focus by the UK media on the use of child labour in cocoa farms.
1pm: We all boarded the bus and headed out to Bayerebon number 3, travelling against the flow of traffic north out of Kumasi. The streets were packed with people selling things. Shops that unfolded from crates and parasols at the side of the road or gardens filled with car parts. Women carrying large bowls of nuts, fruit and bags of water on their heads, brightly coloured clothes and numerous European football shirts added to the melee. The scene took me back to pre-earthquake Port-au-Prince in Haiti, a place I have visited many times. Unlike Haiti, however Vodafone appear to rule here as their logo was everywhere, with entire blocks of flats covered in the familiar red and white logo; Coke too is everywhere, with the whole toll booth festooned with the brand.
We travelled for around 2 hours on the road, dodging potholes, coaches and taxis then turned off onto a dirt track travelling through countryside villages spotting cocoa farms with tables full of cocoa at different stages of drying. We drove for a further two hours through trees and shrubs and fields of corn, the road sometimes tarmac, other times just hard mud. The scenery was breathtaking and the experience was enhanced by the smell of burning fields occasionally wafting into the car.

Elias Mohammed - the Recorder

We eventually arrived at Bayerebon no.3 and the familiar face of Elias Mohammed the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society recorder whom I felt I already knew so well having seen his video on the Divine website  explaining what a recorder does. I have told his story many times.
Elias Mohammed is a 52 year old cocoa farmer, and is a member of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative living in Beyerebon3. He has two and a half acres of farming land producing about twelve bags of cocoa a year. He has five children and has been able to send them all to the school in the village built with Fairtrade premiums. Two have now gone on to senior secondary school.

The whole village came to meet and greet us asking us our reasons for visiting and then explaining what benefits they have enjoyed since becoming members of Kuapa Kokoo co-operative. The president of the society went on to tell us that the school they have is all down to Kuapa Kokoo co-operative and the Fairtrade community here is growing, the people who live here are now proud to say we live in Bayerebon3 the one with the Bayerebon 3 Kuapa Kokoo co-operative. This was wonderful to see and hear and made me realise how Haiti could benefit from Fairtrade.

Drying beans at Bayerebon3

We walked for about ten mins in 38 degree sun into the forest and to the farm where we were shown cocoa growing along side of cocoa yams, palms and plantains. Elias then explained and demonstrated how to care for the farm telling us the importance with each bag earning the community some more money.
Bayerebon 3 village school

Schoolchildren at Bayerebon3

We saw the positive impact of Fairtrade at the school we visited which had been paid for through the Fairtrade premium. I was struck by the passion the children had for education. They learn from an early age that education is the key that can take whole communities out of poverty and I felt saddened that in the UK we don’t always appreciate the privilege that we have of free education. I met another person I felt I already knew – 14 years-old Jennifer Oforiwaa Kusi. Jennifer lives in Bayerebon 3 village. Her father is a cocoa farmer and a member of Kuapa Kokoo, and her mother runs a shop selling basic food stuffs such as rice. Jennifer knows a bit about the role Fairtrade plays in her community – “Fairtrade supports Kuapa,” she says. “Fairtrade means my father gets a bonus. And I got to go on one of the kids camps that Kuapa Kokoo organises for children of cocoa farmers.” We meet the headmaster and pupils who told us the impact that Fairtrade makes in their lives. He told us that the teachers are paid extra by Kuapa Kokoo co-operative to offer extra help in subjects where the students need it.
The children asked me what football team I support. I live near Leeds, so I said “its Leeds United” but unsurprisingly no one had heard of them.
Who is your favourite player? I told them my favourite Ghanaian who played for Leeds is Tony Yeboah. They all knew Yeboah.
What is your wife called? How old is your son? We left Dubble bars for the students, some school books and a new leather football with a pump. Following this we went back to the village and shared some Divine chocolate. Then it was back to Rees hotel in the dark, a quick wash and a drink at the bar before dinner; we were the only people in the restaurant that had a Chinese themed menu – 2 veggi meals and 2 meat dishes that took a little while to arrive but was good.
Day three
Awaham society, Juaben depot, Bonwire Kente village
It’s 7 am and the sun is shining; the rest of the group are still in bed, breakfast isn’t until 8 am. It’s a great way to start the day! Back into the restaurant to a breakfast that consisted of toast, an omelette and tea or coffee – so that’s 4 toast and omelettes please!
We walked round to the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative office and set off for our next community. After about 1.5 hours driving we turned off onto a red dusty track and waved to passing people who were carrying a whole host of things to and from the market houses.

Juliet with some of her cocoa pods

We arrived at Awaham Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society which is a 25 minute drive from Effiduase in the Ashanti region, to be greeted by Juliet the secretary of the society and some of the executive members. Juliet explained that the women of the community wanted to have a corn crushing mill to take some of the back breaking work out of preparing cornmeal. The nearest mill was 2 miles away so they made a request to Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust (KKFT) which manages the invested Fairtrade premium, and were successful. The corn mill project was commissioned on Thursday, July 15 2010 at an estimated cost of GH¢ 5,900. I asked if it was important to the members that they own a chocolate company themselves; she replied by saying: “it makes us all very proud to supply the best cocoa for the best chocolate and because we own it we get more of the profits which helps the whole village‟.
Again after stating our reasons for wanting to visit we shared some chocolate and went to the school leaving behind a football and some more chocolate. I was overwhelmed by the desire for chocolate, despite growing and farming the most essential ingredient, people rarely have the opportunity to taste it for themselves. They are excited that it is Kuapa’s chocolate.
Juliet then took us to see her cocoa farm which was a 10-15 minute walk from the village in around

The corn crushing mill at Awaham

40 degree heat. Juliet usually goes to the farm at 7:30 am, returning around 3:30 pm and often eating there. Juliet took her handbag with her into the farm; I asked her what Ghanaian ladies carried in their handbags “a machete” she replied to my surprise. The heat was oppressive on the farm, which is understandable as it is in a rainforest.
Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society Juaben depot
We had lunch with Wiafe Akenten the regional depot manager. Wiafe explained the collection and shipping point to us which is where all the local societies send the cocoa for QA testing and onward shipping. The day we were there, government inspectors were checking quality and moisture levels.

The Juaben depot

I gave Wiafe an old mobile phone which he was delighted with. The similarities with Haiti in this respect are striking, despite many places not having 24 hour electricity, they do have mobile phones. Wiafe and I reflected how access to information had revolutionised lives.
Bonwire Kente village
Last stop on our long day was a cultural shopping break where we saw the skilful weaving of Kente cloth, a royal and sacred cloth held in high esteem in the Akan family and the entire country of Ghana. Some of the cloth had taken 2 years to weave and cost 600 GH¢ but scarves were only 15 GH¢. Young boys asked our names and while they were talking skilfully weaved our names on bracelets. Then said “here I have one for you, no prices, just give me what your heart says”. Again this was reminiscent of Haiti where we would be surrounded wherever we went with people trying to sell us baskets, carvings and embroidered linen some good some not so good.
Lake Bosomtwe Saturday 27th

View across the lake

Our last day. We had breakfast, packed our cases and Comfort’s son Gordon collected us for a trip to see beautiful Lake Bosomtwe, 35km south of Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Lake Bosomtwe is the largest natural lake in Ghana and is encircled by rugged mountains thickly vegetated, reaching an altitude of more than 600 metres.

The lake is cared for by the 24 local villages and in the visitor centre we learnt of two theories about its formation; one that a huge meteorite formed the lake, another that it is the crater of an extinct volcano. Whatever the reason it is absolutely stunning.

Frying fish by the lake

The villagers around the lake (numbering approximately 70,000) fish for tilapia that is deep fried and sold on the shores. The Ashanti people consider the lake itself to be sacred. According to belief, the souls of the dead come to the Lake to bid farewell to the God Twi. Because of this, it is only considered permissible to fish in Lake Bosumtwi from wooden planks.
Central Kumasi sight seeing
Kumasi is the capital city of the Ashanti region, and historical centre for Ghana. We visited the Manhyia Palace, the seat of the King of Ashanti and members of the royal family in the northern part of the city. The Palace has a courtyard and a courtroom where matters dealing with the constitution and customs are deliberated upon the traditional council.
We also saw the monument Kuapa Kokoo has commissioned to commemorate the significant role cocoa farmers have played in the social and economic history of Ghana. Most people in Ghana have cocoa farmers to thank for their education as cocoa has been such a significant income generator over the last century. The statue is on a roundabout in central Kumasi designed by Samuel Tachie-Appiah.
Kumasi is home to the largest market in West Africa. Unfortunately we were short on time so had to suffice with a ride around the central market. Stall after stall, were lined next to each other for miles in every direction, 12 hectares in all. The crowds were endless and the salesmen appeared at times to be aggressive. The best way I can describe the scene is to imagine a mega mall packed to the rafters with jumble sale stalls the Saturday before Christmas!

So what were my overall impressions of the trip? I have been with Divine for 5 years but have been passionate about Fairtrade as a recognised means of lifting communities out of poverty for much longer. I have visited Northern Haiti on numerous occasions and for me Haiti represents the “before” to the Kuapa-Kokoo’s “after” and I can see how such a cooperative could have an immense effect on Haitian communities. To witness the positive effects of fairtrade on the community is a real privilege and the welcome I received was immensely humbling. I know that I will take this experience forward into my work and because of it be better able to communicate the vision that is Divine.