What do women get out of joining Kuapa Kokoo

26 October 2012

I’ve just been to Ghana for some meetings at Kuapa Kokoo – we’ve been working together on communications strategy.  I haven’t been for a several months, so it is always very good to catch up with everyone.  It was also great to go out to Bipoa and Bayerebon3 again and spend whole days in the villages talking with farmers and hearing how things are going, and reporting back from Divine Chocolate.

The women's group in Bipoa

The women’s group in Bipoa

There are women’s groups in both villages – and they are clearly a real force within the community.  I sat and asked a few women about their farms, their families and why they had joined Kuapa – and the obvious benefits of belonging to these vocal and supportive groups was a clear incentive.  Elizabeth Antegoa lives in Bipoa where the first Kuapa women’s group was formed.  She joined Kuapa Kokoo a year ago.  “I wanted to be part of the women’s group, ”she says.  And she describes how much she has gained from joining. “We all join together and we help each other. Together we have learned skills like making soap and screen-printing – and this helps us earn our own money.”

Elizabeth Antegoa

Elizabeth Antegoa

“I like the way women are encouraged in Kuapa Kokoo,” she adds. At the moment Elizabeth only has one room in someone else’s house.  Her dream is to make enough money to have her own house with a kitchen and bedrooms.  “The women’s group will help me make it happen,” she says.

I talked to Georgina Oppong in Bayerebon3.  She joined Kuapa Kokoo three years ago, and said she’d joined first and foremost because “everything is fair”.  Then she talked about how proud she is to belong to the local Kuapa women’s group. Together they have requested a loan from the credit union, to give them seed money for setting up their income-generating businesses.  Georgina sells fish at the local market to augment her income from cocoa.

Georgina Oppong

Georgina Oppong

Women make up about a third of the membership of Kuapa Kokoo – and the development of the groups and the benefits they bring to women is a testament to the really proactive approach Kuapa has taken to its gender equality programme.  The women are not just learning new income-generating skills alongside cocoa farming – but also really honing them.  The tie-dye and batik fabrics I saw this time were considerably more sophisticated than those I saw a year ago.  It seems to me that the women’s groups are creating a growing potential to bring in additional income to families and also to the organisation.  It’s also clear to see that participation in the women’s groups builds women’s confidence, and they are increasingly putting themselves forward for elected positions in the cooperative – and taking on leading roles.

Lovely tie-dye samples from the Women's Group in Amankwatia

Lovely tie-dye samples from the Women’s Group in Amankwatia


What’s on the menu for cocoa farmers

2 April 2012

Here’s the latest post from Erica Kyere of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd:

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. This is what every mother tells her daughter right from when she can help out in the kitchen.

Cooking is traditionally done by women in Ghana and although it is not written anywhere, every woman takes control of the cooking in the home. It’s one way to attract a good man to marry and that is why mothers hand down their unwritten recipes to their female children right from a very tender age.

Kuapa kokoo farmers cooking arrangements

Cooking in a cocoa farming village

Cooking is done in the kitchen – which is often outdoors. Food in the forest belt of Ghana where cocoa is grown is made from Cassava, plantain, Yam, Rice, Maize, Garden eggs, Kontonmire (our spinach), okro, Fish, beef, mutton and Chicken.

Most farmers cook twice a day – Porridges , Ampesi(Yam and Plantain) with Abomu (Kontonmire and or garden eggs with pepper and onion)and rice with stew are prepared in the mornings or mid mornings whilst Fufu (pounded cassava and plantain) and banku (fermented corn dough and cassava dough) with soup are prepared in the evenings.

On special occasions like Christmas and Easter, Rice and Chicken Stew, rice balls or fufu with chicken soup is prepared.

Raphael helping make fufu

Raphael helping make fufu

You can see much more about the foods and recipes of cocoa farmers at PaPaPaaLive – where children of Great Fammis School take you on a journey of discovery of all the foods and ingredients they use in everyday cooking – see the taster here.  This is just one of a great series of webcasts that schools can subscribe to as a great basis for classroom discussion.

Ghanaian children describe what they eat and how its cooked

Ghanaian children describe what they eat and how its cooked


Cocoa farmers get to see a UK farm in action

13 March 2012

Latest post from Tom Allen of Trading Visions:

While here in UK for Fairtrade Fortnight, Elias and Agnes had asked if they would be able to visit a farm.

We were able to set up a visit to Ripple Farm, a small organic farm situated in the Stour Valley in Kent. The owners Martin and Sarah were kind enough give up a few hours of their Sunday afternoon to show us around and explain how everything works.

Martin cuts some beetroot for everyone to try

Martin cuts some beetroot for everyone to try

It was great to see Elias and Agnes in the fields of Kent. When Kuapa Kokoo farmers visit, they generally get to visit all kinds of amazing places – from company offices, to town halls, to schools, to national civic buildings – but they rarely ever get into the countryside. Here they were in their element: talking to a farmer like themselves.

They fired off questions at Martin as we walked around Ripple Farm: how do they do the weeding, how many people work on the farm, how many vegetables are cultivated, what sort of equipment and machinery do they use…

Comparing the impact of the seasons and the weather in the UK and Ghana was a recurring topic of conversation. As we stood looking at several rows of leeks, the cocoa farmers were amazed to hear that most of them had been planted twelve months earlier.

“In Ghana,” said Agnes, “I plant maize and three months later I harvest it.”

Martin from Ripple smiled ruefully as he explained that when they plant maize for corn on the cob they will harvest one round of corn each year, and only if it is warm enough.

We walked though a field of brassicas, tasting leaves from various kinds of cabbage, curly kale and cavolo nero. We dug up a swede – Elias thought it was much like yam. We uncovered beetroot from under a winter bed of straw. The farmers observed that you didn’t need to keep crops warm like that in Ghana. They tried beetroot for the first time and thought it was delicious.

Ripple Farm also rent a beautiful Victorian walled garden up on a hill, with a stunning circular wall around it. Here they grow salad leaves in various old greenhouses. One of the greenhouses contained a warm and humid plant raising nursery, which the cocoa farmers loved.

Elias was very interested in exactly how Martin sells his vegetables. Do buyers come to the farm? Do they haggle? Martin explained that they take the vegetables to shops and farmers markets, locally and in London. He tends to set the price, and the English don’t go in for much haggling!

The cocoa farmers enjoyed climbing on the big potato harvester and admired Martin’s vintage 1950s tractor. Despite the fact that Ripple Farm is actually a small, low tech, labour intensive farm by British standards, Elias and Agnes remarked on how many machines there were compared with their own farms in Ghana where the only tool is a machete and everything is done by hand.

Afterwards, Martin and Sarah treated us to a delicious lunch and we took the train back to London.


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