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!

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

Reporting, voting and celebrating – it’s the 18th Kuapa farmers’ AGM

11 September 2012

Sophi Tranchell reports from this years AGM in Ghana:

Peter Bennett Jones tries out the well at Kwabeng Society

I’ve just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Kuapa Kokoo’s AGM to report to them on how Divine is doing.  On the way there the Chair of Comic Relief,  Peter Bennett Jones and I visited Kwabeng, which is the President’s Society.  It was the first time Peter had been to a Kuapa farm to see cocoa growing and how beans are dried on a bamboo table.  Comic Relief has supported Kuapa Kokoo since 1994 but this is the first time Peter had visited the farmers. He made a nice speech about his family farming in Britain and was delighted to see the water well that Kuapa had sunk using Fairtrade premiums.  I was joined later by Hannah from Twin and Rosie from Body Shop – it was their first Kuapa AGM and a great introduction to this amazing co-operative.

One of the Kuapa Women’s Groups displaying their batik and tie-dye

The AGM was a celebration. There was a great display from the Women’s project with stalls displaying the different products that Kuapa women had made or grown.  Beautiful batiks including ones with Kuapa’s logo, soap from palm oil and cocoa pods, palm oil, garry and lots of fresh produce.

The delegates meeting began with a presentation of the combined offices and conference centre that Kuapa is proposing to build so that all the different parts of Kuapa could be in one building.   They then discussed the use of Fairtrade Premiums; the farmers were keen to receive cash bonuses and machetes but also recognised the need to invest in the business.  The roving medical clinics which had visited 30 districts were held up as a success, as was the women’s project.   Kuapa has invested significantly in internal controls to ensure that they are delivering on their Fairtrade promises, they also run one of the only farmer-run Child Labour Awareness Programmes which has attracted the support of ILO.  The meeting also agreed to a set up a constitution review committee and elected members to sit on it.

Sophi, Madam President and Chief Barima Ofe Akwasi Okogyeasuo II on the top table

The second day was the formal business of the AGM. As we entered, the women, who were very well represented, were dancing and singing Kuapa songs.  The meeting was chaired by Barima Ofe Akwasi Okogyeasuo II, a local Chief who arrived with his full entourage. He had a young man to hold the official parasol over his head for the whole length of the proceedings! He was adorned in brightly coloured Kente cloth and Ashanti gold. There were speeches from the President, The MD of KKL and many honoured guests including Cocobod, Kraft and visiting farmers from Cameroon.

Sophi joins the dancing

Regina kindly translated my speech into Twi as I presented my speech.  I focussed on two programmes that Divine has supported through our Producer Support & Development fund.  Firstly, the membership database, so that Kuapa can look after its members and run its operations more efficiently.  Kuapa now has 65,000 members, 21,000 are women.  They deliver 42,000 tonnes of cocoa which is nearly 1% of the world’s cocoa.  The database is an essential tool.  Kuapa is also doing a pilot series of hour long radio programmes to promote the benefits of being a member of Kuapa and to share important information with the farmers many of whom are deep in the rainforest and very remote.

In the evening we had a great party in the grounds of Kuapa’s offices with a local band singing in Twi, a popcorn machine and lots of food, drink and dancing. Those Internal Control Officers sure can dance!

A cocoa farmer remembers his first trip to UK

29 June 2012

Elias Mohammed took his first flight out of Ghana this year to join Divine Chocolate as an ambassador for Kuapa Kokoo  on a tour round UK for Fairtrade Fortnight.  Here he remembers his impressions of the visit:

Elias Mohammed

Elias Mohammed by his scales at Bayerebon3 (photo: Kim Naylor)

Bayerebon No. 3 society, where I am recorder sees a lot of visitors from all over the world every year! People in my village always asked me one question I was never able to answer “da ben n’abrofo be ba abe fa wo ako won kuromu?” (when will the whites invite you to their country)? I had heard many tales of how beautiful “Abrokyire”(abroad) is and I always imagined myself there.

My dreams came true early this year when I was selected to participate in the Fairtrade fortnight! I was so excited. My wives were elated when I informed them about the trip. I was in high spirits until I was refused a visa! I thought that was the end but thanks to Divine Chocolate, I was eventually issued a visa after an appeal. This problem cut short my stay by two days!

 The flight was good and the food was even better. I thought the Airport in Ghana was big and beautiful until we reached Heathrow. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It is so big, beautiful and busy!  David of Divine Chocolate whisked me immediately to my hotel after going through immigration process.

My days in the UK were very interesting. I met many people: Fairtrade officials, other producers like me, school children etc.  We had a very busy schedule travelling from place to place in England and in Scotland to attend events and give speeches. I really enjoyed the encounter with school children. The enthusiasm of the supporters of Fairtrade and their love of Divine Chocolate encouraged me to always produce beans that are Pa pa paa (best of the best!).

Elias asked if he could visit a farm – here he is with Agnes and Wendy meeting Martin at Ripple Farm in Kent

Elias talking to pupils at Dunbar Primary School

Upon my return to Ghana, everyone calls me “Burger” (a term used to describe people who have just returned from abroad). I feel proud when people call me that. I admit I would have liked more time to go shopping and more sight-seeing,  but I think  my trip was very successful.

The high point of my visit was people smiling and saying thank you after my presentation.


Cocoa and Co-operatives

7 June 2012
Latest post from guest blogger, teacher and author (and cocoa industry specialist) Michael Niemann:
Members of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative working together

Members of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative working together
(photo:Brian Moody)

A farmers’ co-operative is an independent organization of farmers who pool their resources for mutual benefit. Farmers have formed such co-operatives around the world ever since agricultural produce became commodities traded on exchanges. Co-operatives strengthen farmers’ bargaining power, help them survive volatile markets and reap the benefits of cooperation.

Cocoa farmers around the world were no exception. When the mass production of cocoa began in West Africa around the end of the 19th century, farmers in Ghana, the Côte d’Ivoire and other countries formed farmers unions and co-operatives to help each other with the physical labor required to clear brush, plant trees and, most importantly, to deal with the colonial authorities. Strikes and protests against low prices and lack of extension services were common during the first half of the 20th century. Today’s fair-trade co-operatives are simply the most recent incarnation of that long-standing organizational form.

Fair-trade co-operatives play a significant role in connecting farmers with consumers along the fair-trade commodity chain. Their primary tasks are the collection and storage of cocoa beans before export, the provision of extension services, the provision of credit, and the distribution of the fair-trade and social premiums. How they do this varies according to the circumstances.

In Ghana, cocoa is king. It’s the most important export crop for the country and the Ghanaian government manages many aspects of the crop through the COCOBOD, the Ghanaian Cocoa Board. COCOBOD is the sole exporter of cocoa from Ghana, which means that all cocoa farmers have to sell their crop to the board. Since the reforms of the 1990s, the process of selling cocoa to COCOBOD has been liberalized and private produce purchasing companies buy the beans from farmers and sell them to the board. The threat of being exploited by unscrupulous middlemen was one of the key reasons Kuapa Kokoo was formed. The cooperative serves as a produce purchasing company that connects the farmers to the COCOBOD. Since Kuapa represents its 65,000+ farmers, the farmers can rest assured that they are paid the legally set price.

Cocoa farmers in Ghana join Kuapa Kokoo as village societies. This isn’t odd because in the cocoa belt, entire villages are engaged in cocoa production. Each village society has elected representatives that serve at the district and national level, representing their local members. Those same representatives also are responsible for paying the local farmers for the cocoa they deliver to the collection centers. Kuapa Kokoo also distributes the social premium paid to farmers through the Kuapa Kokoo Trust. Individual village societies apply for funds from the trust to finance community projects like schools, water pumps etc.

Cocoa farmers in southern Belize represent just a small fraction of the farming population. Citrus and other produce are bigger crops than cocoa. Members of the Toledo Cocoa Growers Association, live scattered among the villages of the Maya mountains in southern Belize. Like its counterpart in Ghana, the TCGA represents its members to the cocoa buyers. Unlike in Ghana, there is no government marketing board, so the cooperative sells directly to the buyers. It also pays the farmers from the proceeds.

When it comes to the social premium, however, the TCGA follows a different methods. Since there are no village societies, the funds are used to create infrastructure that benefits all coop members, for example common facilities for drying the cocoa after fermentation to insure quality. The social premium also supports a scholarship fund for the children of cocoa farmers. The TCGA also provides extension services and helps farmer produce the best crop possible. Finally, the TCGA deals with issues of land tenure. Given that cocoa is a long term investment for farmers, security of tenure is crucial. But Maya traditions of communal land ownership can at times become a problem and the TCGA helps farmers negotiate in those conditions.

Farmers’ co-operatives are flexible organizations. The two examples above show how their structure and activities reflect the unique circumstances farmers face in different parts of the world. The common theme, however, is that they do what they do at the behest of their members and are therefore homegrown organizations that help give farmers a voice.

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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