Cocoa farmers make you think

17 September 2009
Comfort Kwaasibea and Comfort Asere comment on the waste of good farming space in my back garden

Comfort Kwaasibea and Comfort Asare-Kwabi comment on the waste of good farming space in my back garden

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”.

Reuters finds out why Divine leads the way

1 May 2009

When it comes to a fairer deal for cocoa farmers, Fairtrade is just the start and should be the minimum big companies should be required to do.  So says Sophi Tranchell, MD of Divine, in a recent interview with Reuters TV.