It has been interesting working with cocoa farmers – seeing the world through their eyes you can learn a thing or two.
I remember Comfort Asare-Kwabi, who had just arrived in UK for the first time, saying to me when she saw my back garden – “how can you own so much land, and not grow your own food?”. I felt a bit ashamed. I haven’t got a very big garden, but Comfort sowed a seed in my mind – and it did eventually make me dig up the flower bed, make a raised vegetable bed and start growing our own.
Another time Comfort Kwaasibea said, as we drove to a meeting with Gordon Brown during Fairtrade Fortnight, “Why did God make London like this… and Ghana like it is?” Not something I could easily answer – though I didn’t feel it was God’s doing. We expect that farmers – leaving their villages for the first time – will find UK a virtual paradise – but it’s not really the case. They comment that there’s a ridiculous amount of choice in our supermarkets. For those Ghanaians tempted to try their luck in UK they have words of warning, “you think it will be good, but it is very hard to make your living here.”
The farmers’ perspective is a sharp reminder there’s so much Stuff we don’t need, and that though they too aspire to cars, mobile phones, roads, brick houses etc they’re not fussed about all the additional stuff – and that sustainable income, clean water, health and education remain their number one priorities along with the importance of community and extended family.
They also have sayings and turns of phrase that can be rather more interesting than ours… for example, when about to take on a big task (like setting up your own chocolate company) – “if you’re going to try and eat an elephant.. start with it’s trunk”.