Can you help Sara raise money for a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

15 May 2013

Sara isn’t just cycling 180 miles with MITIE Revolution for fun – she’s also aiming to raise money for the next Kuapa Kokoo kids camp. Here’s a post about how you could help…

I’m fundraising for a Kuapa Kids Camp, being held from 11th-13th July 2013 in Kumasi, Ghana.

Taking part in a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

Taking part in a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

The Kuapa Kids Camps are residential camps for young people from rural cocoa growing areas organised by Trading Visions in collaboration with Kuapa Kokoo.  Trading Visions is an educational charity set up by Divine to amplify the voice of cocoa farmers in West Africa, and particularly to link young people in Ghana with their contemporaries here to learn more about issues at either end of the supply chain.

The Kids Camps are brilliant for boosting the confidence and educational attainment of the students. They also help to energise their schools by increasing the active participation of teachers, parents and the local community in the schools.

Getting stuck into a Kids Camp project

Getting stuck into a Kids Camp project

We also use the Kids Camps to work with the children in Ghana to help create educational materials on Fairtrade chocolate for young people in the UK.

At the next Kuapa Kids Camp, around 70 children from rural cocoa growing families will be coming together for three days, many of them leaving their villages and mixing with children from other schools for the first time.

They learn about Fairtrade and their role in the global chocolate supply chain, and issues such as nutrition, child labour, health, and girls’ education.

The Kids Camp cost will be £7,000. The Hull Fairtrade City Project has pledged £2,000 to help fund it, plus another £1,500 of match funding for any money we raise.

Please help by donating to this important education project for children living in rural farming villages in Ghana.  Click here for my fundraising page.

Thank you!


A story of cocoa farmers in London

14 March 2013

As well as offering a fantastic range of chocolate, Divine is here to give cocoa farmers a voice – and it’s so great to see the relish with which they take up that opportunity each Fairtrade Fortnight!

Mary & Esther

Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim at Kuapa HQ

This year we were delighted to host a visit by Kuapa Kokoo members Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim – both from the Western Region of Ghana, and both first time travellers to UK.  Mary is 60, and comes from Enchi where she has a 7.5 acre farm. She’s been a member of Kuapa Kokoo for 6 years.  Esther is 28, from Agyedum, and her family farm is 38 acres. She’s been a Kuapa member for 8 years.

As you can imagine, arriving in the freezing cold, and emerging from the plane in Heathrow Terminal 5 is quite overwhelming!  But Mary and Esther not only took everything in their stride, but were open for all experiences and interested in everything they saw and heard.  We had a very busy schedule arranged for them – ensuring they addressed really diverse audiences, and in turn discovered as much as possible about the UK chocolate market they supply (and lots of sight-seeing too).

Sampling Divine at Liberty's chocolate shop

Sampling Divine at Liberty’s chocolate shop

The farmers attended Fairtrade events at St Mary le Bow Church, at St Paul’s Cathedral, in Crystal Palace, and in Haringay – telling audiences about their lives, about the impact Fairtrade and owning Divine has had on them and their fellow members, and their hopes for the future.They toured a real mix of shops where Divine is stocked – delighting customers who weren’t expecting to meet cocoa farmers when they bought their chocolate – from Liberty’s to Budgens in Crouch End, and Whole Foods to Oxfam in Covent Garden.

Oxfam

Esther and Mary visit Oxfam in Drury Lane

 8thMarch is InternationalWomen’s Day – and once again the Kuapa farmers were given the opportunity to participate in the international Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the Southbank Centre – amongst amazing women from all backgrounds and circumstances.Primary school St Barnabus in Tunbridge Wells, and Imperial College and Royal College of Art all hosted lovely events where Mary and Esther narrated a film showing how cocoa is grown, harvested and prepared to ensure it is “pa pa paa” and answered many questions about how belonging to Kuapa Kokoo has changed their lives.  We also visited Hadlow College where Esther and Mary were able to share knowledge and experience with a whole theatre of farming students, including many international students from Africa.  We were given a tour of the College farm – and the size of all the animals amazed them!

Esther & Mary visit the lambing shed at Hadlow College

Esther & Mary visit the lambing shed at Hadlow College

Last – but absolutely not least – Esther and Mary were very special guests at our fantastic Pop Up Shop in Monmouth Street WC2 – talking to customers, speaking at our discussion event “Can smallholder farmers save the world?”, and throwing some shapes at our fabulous free Azonto dance sessions – the Ghanaian dance craze sweeping the world.

We were very sorry to see them go (but they were extremely glad to miss the sudden big dip in temperature!).  They said everywhere they went how proud they were to be here and to be representing their co-operative – and that their very presence here was a demonstration of how things were changing for cocoa farmers.  They loved fish & chips, but hated escalators, they were amazed by Tower Bridge and the fact it could open, and blown away by the size of the Thames. They were delighted by the glimpses of countryside through the train window on the way to Kent, and impressed by buildings, roads, and automatically opening doors.

They will be taking all their experiences back with them – and most importantly the impression that growing cocoa is worthwhile, that we in UK love chocolate, and everyone they met loved Divine.  In turn they have inspired so many more people here to support Fairtrade and to cherish and value the favourite foods we buy – especially chocolate!

Esther dances Azonto at the Divine Pop Up

Esther dances Azonto at the Divine Pop Up


A meeting of co-operatives – The Co-op and Suma visit Kuapa Kokoo

13 February 2013

Here’s Divine’s Wendy Rowan reporting on her first trip to Ghana:

Saturday 19th January

We left a snow bound London to arrive in Accra at 10.30 at night with the temperature at a humid 32 degrees. The heat just hits you, right there, at the back of the throat, taking your breath away. Immigration procedure was long and tortuous in the non air-conditioned airport terminal – embarkation cards completed, signed & handed over, iris recognition image scanned, finger prints taken, yellow fever inoculation certificate checked. Our driver was waiting in arrivals and we sped away for our first night in Ghana at the Airside Hotel. 

Lots of these little chaps at our hotel

Lots of these little chaps at our hotel

We were a party of five – myself and my colleague Alistair Menzies from Divine Chocolate, Jenny Dixon and Rachael Gray from The Co-operative and Jenny Carlyle from Suma, the wholefood wholesaler worker’s co-operative in Elland, Yorkshire.

Sunday 20th January

Sunday morning we were up with the cockerels and breakfasted in the Zara restaurant. A splendid buffet catered for everyone’s tastes and offered a delicious choice from fresh pineapple & papaya to rice and spicy beef curry.

Today was going to be a leisurely day visiting tourist attractions and making our way to Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. We were collected by our drivers who were going to accompany us on the whole trip – Enoch, Joe and Abdulai.

The forbidding door leading to a holding room for slaves at Elmina Castle

We set off westward to Elmina Castle. Built by the Portuguese traders in the late 1400’s, the castle was built to protect the gold trade. But following its capture by the Dutch in 1637, it came to serve the Dutch slave trade with Brazil and the Caribbean. The Castle housed luxury suites on the upper levels for the European governor, traders and soldiers. The slave dungeons below were cramped, dark and filthy cells housing up to 600 men and 400 women at a time. The governor could look down from his balcony on to the courtyard where the women slaves would be lined up and he could choose his companion for the night. At the seaboard side of the castle was the infamous “Door of No Return” through which the slaves passed through one by one to board to waiting ships that would take them on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic. Over three centuries it is estimated that 60 million slaves were captured with only 20 million surviving capture, imprisonment and the journey to the New World. We all knew something about the slave trade but to see where the slaves were imprisoned in dark, dank, squalid conditions brought home the true horrors endured by Africans for three centuries.

We continued 4 kilometres from the coast to the Hans Cottage Botel where we stopped for lunch. Holiday cottages and a restaurant situated in a lagoon which is home to crocodiles, turtles and many birds. Although the crocodiles are said to be friendly, we weren’t going to risk getting too close and stuck to taking photos from behind the safety of the wall.  We were however, very adventurous with our choice of food and all opted for the Ghanaian traditional fayre of beans, rice and fried plantain. And very tasty it was too.

A big smile from the croc

A big smile from the croc

Next stop was the Kakum Rainforest National Park. Here a 40m canopy walkway suspended between trees gives a breathtaking view of the forest. We shared the experience with a group of ladies and gents in their Sunday best – men in their brightly coloured printed shirts and the ladies beautiful in their colourful traditional African dresses. And with a gaggle of giggling Ghanaian girls on a church trip out to the forest wilds all dressed up in their trendy, western Sunday best. A 20 minute climb through the moist & humid forest, passing indigenous trees which were hundreds of years old and accompanied by the sounds of cicadas brings you to a wooden platform. From here you step on to the walkway – a narrow wooden plank suspended by rope and netting and underpinned by a few steel bars. At the circular tree house there was a choice to be the adventurer and do 7 more walkways or take it easy and do just 3 more or as I did, take the scaredy-cat option and go back the way we came and get on to terra firma as soon as possible. Exhilarated after our adventure, it was then back on the road for the 4 hour journey to Kumasi along the “B” road – a long and winding dirt road, deep rusty

Kakun Aerial Walkway

Kakun Aerial Walkway

red in colour with plenty of pot holes. Either side of the road was forest vegetation – plantain, banana, papaya and palm trees and road side vendors selling their home-grown produce – water melons, pineapples, oranges, lemons, coconuts and freshly fried plantain chips. We passed villages with unstructured layouts bustling with activity and always with a cleared level area for the football pitch with goal posts either end. We were happy to at last to arrive at Kumasi and check in to the Rees Hotel, where we could revive our hot & dusty selves. We ate in the hotel that evening a mixture of European and Ghanaian dishes.

Monday 21st January

Refreshed and well rested, we met up early morning for an unusual breakfast – spring onion omelette with cold baked beans and 4 triangles of barely toasted, sweet white bread. Surprisingly tasty.

Collected by our trusty drivers we headed from the hotel to Kuapa Kokoo offices where we met up with Francis who was going to be our translator and Vincent who was in charge of taking photos & video recording. Kuapa Kokoo is the co-operative of cocoa farmers who grow all the cocoa which goes in to making Divine Chocolate – and own 45% of the company.

The ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi has a population of 1.5 million and judging by the gridlocked roads, the same number of cars. It took time and patience to drive out of the city, the roads noisy with horns tooting and nose to tail with yellow painted taxis, motor bikes, seriously large 4 by 4’s, tro tros – the Ghanaian equivalent of the mini bus, with passengers sardined inside and outside packed high with all their belongings  – goats included tied to the roofs.

The city sprawls on forever with a ramshackle shanty town – dwellings fronted by trading posts selling everything from car engines, doors, coffins, beds, carpets to all manner of electrical appliances. And all along the carriage way are street sellers offering their wares to the hot & frustrated drivers – bags of cooled water, refreshing coconuts, snacks, pieces of  water melon, handkerchiefs, sim cards, loaves of bread, all displayed beautifully in baskets and bowls carried securely and proudly on the head.

Here we all are at Amankwatia

Here we all are at Amankwatia

Eventually the landscape changed to a more rural setting and we turned off the main road and arrived at Amankwatia village. In 2010 to celebrate 5 years of sourcing cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo for their own label Truly Irresistible range of chocolate, The Co-operative co-funded with Kuapa Kokoo the building  of a new Junior High School. Jenny & Rachael from The Co-op were here to see how the school was doing and how it was benefitting the 13-19 year old students from Amankwatia and the surrounding villages. We were welcomed in to the village with singing and hand clapping by about 50 cocoa farmers who had given up their time to greet us. We were introduced to the Recorder Samuel Antwi, the society secretary, the village chief who was also a member of Kuapa, and Adwoa Asianaa he oldest cocoa farmer at 83 years- a feisty lady who looked half her age and who had harvested 20 bags of cocoa that season –   and the youngest at 42 years. As well as the school, the benefits to the village for being members of Kuapa Kokoo and co-owning Divine Chocolate have been the installation of a corn mill, solar panels for electricity, and machetes for each farmer – a vital tool for the harvesting of cocoa. And an opportunity for the women to learn new skills to supplement their income – tie dying and soap making with the cocoa pod husks.

Jenny from Suma learns how to crack open a cocoa pod

Jenny from Suma learns how to crack open a cocoa pod

We took a short walk out of the village in to the forest where the cocoa trees grow amongst the orange and papaya trees. It’s near the end of the season and the weather has been unseasonably hot but there were still pods ripening. We were shown how to harvest a cocoa pod – with care and diligence so as not to damage the trunk, how to slice it open with the machete and remove the beans. We all got a taste of the sweet white flesh surrounding the bean. The farmers work as one team, harvesting, fermenting and drying the beans together going from one farm to the next in what is known in Twi as “ Nnoboa” – you help me and I’ll help you & let’s work together. Having read how it’s done, seen the films on how it’s done, and heard the farmers tell me how it’s done, it was wonderful to actually be part  of the harvest and an honour to be presented with a freshly harvested, weighty cocoa pod.

Returning to the village we met the school’s headmaster and were introduced to the senior class. The students were shy

It's really useful to have a bike

It’s really useful to have a bike

so what better way to break the ice than to ask them to do a bit of Azonto dancing for us! Two willing dancers soon got the class clapping and laughing. On a more serious note, one of the students, 19 years old and luckily still in education, said how much he would love a bicycle to make his 6 mile journey to and from the school a little easier. Many of the students come from neighbouring cocoa growing villages and the time it takes for the journey impacts on their learning time.

Time to say our goodbyes and thank the villagers for their hospitality with gifts of Co-op T shirts, pens and pencils for the students and soaps for the ladies.

On route back to Kumasi we stopped off at the regional depot where all the sacks of cocoa are delivered, weighed, recorded, graded and then loaded on to a truck for shipment to the port of Tema. Rachael from the Co-op, in her role as technical & quality manager was full of praise for the efficient and accurate traceability systems in place.

A dinner hosted by Kuapa staff and members of the Farmers Union was a lovely end to a fabulous day.

Tuesday 22nd January

In the morning we went to the Kuapa Farmer’s Union offices where Esther presented the history and mission of Kuapa Kokoo to give us a first-hand understanding of the workings of the co-operative. We also had the pleasure of meeting members of the NEC – National Executive Committee, the elected members of the farmer’s union. It was a pleasure to meet up with old friends – Elias Mohammed who had come to the UK for Fairtrade Fortnight in 2012 and who I’d had the honour of accompanying around Scotland, and Fatima Ali who I had been with in Cardiff in 2011.

IMG_1253We then headed off to New Koforidua, a village which serves as a centre to a community of 5,200 people. Here the school was funded by the Fairtrade premium and the community house was funded by The Co-operative. The community house serves as a meeting place, library and conference centre. We were welcomed by Walter Alifo, the headmaster and driving force behind the success of the village, and cocoa farmers from the villages and all the students. New Koforidua is a fine example of the benefits of Fairtrade as it is not only twinned with Garstang in Lancashire, the first UK Fairtrade town but is also calls itself the first Fairtrade village in Africa. Important visitors are given the honour of planting sapling cocoa trees outside the community centre – trees planted by  Brad Hill from The Co-operative in 2010 and Sophi Tranchell the MD at Divine Chocolate in 2012 are growing tall & strong. Now the honour fell to Jenny from Suma to plant her sapling. May all the trees flourish and produce a good harvest.

It was photo opportunity time with students putting on this year’s Comic Relief Red Noses and posing with giant Dubble bars – and throwing Divine chocolate coins up in the air to encourage everyone in the UK to “Do Something Funny for Money “ this Red Nose Day.  

We had also been given books to distribute which written & illustrated by the students from Surbiton High School. These were very well received and the students were full of admiration for the wonderful illustrations. We lunched under the shade of the trees and admired the village, the school and community centre. And then it was time to say our goodbyes and head to Kumasi airport and on to the winter cold & snow of the UK.

Women welcoming us to Amankwatia

Women welcoming us to Amankwatia

I have worked for Divine Chocolate for nearly six years and during that time have met a few of the cocoa farmers on their visits to the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight and have heard their stories, and learnt a great deal about cocoa production and the global cocoa & chocolate industry. Actually visiting Ghana and seeing for myself how Fairtrade and farmer-ownership have improved the lives of cocoa farmers at first-hand has been an enlightening experience. Seeing the benefits of trading fairly and investing in the health and education of the next generation has made me more determined to make sure Divine is the chocolate bar of choice for all of us chocolate lovers.


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.


A cocoa farmer’s Christmas Tree

22 December 2011

Further to Francis’ last post about cocoa farmers’ Christmas, Monica Dadzie of Kuapa Kokoo adds:

Monica Dadzie, Gender programme manager at Kuapa Kokoo

One unique thing about cocoa farmers (and people in the farming communities) and Christmas is the way they mark festivities; They uproot either cocoa plant, plantain plant or pawpaw plant and replant them in front of their houses and use them as Christmas trees and hang balloons on them. The replanting is done on the 24th. Most of these plants survive and most people take their harvest from these plants to the church as offering to God, and others to their loved ones or use themselves.

 


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