Now, a quick update on what I have been up to:
I am now living in my relatively permanent home for the rest of the summer in the village of Kukuom, which is about 5km outside of Goaso. I have settled in and am living with a family in their compound, Victoria is the name of my (awesome) host mother. She makes sure that I will never go hungry, and with the size of the portions she serves I may never go hungry again. Ever. I work with a CocoaBod extension officer and have been accompanying him on his visits to the surrounding communities. During these visits he has mainly been focusing on passing on information regarding general farm care for cocoa, as well as fielding any questions that farmers have. After he is done I get to ask the farmers any questions I have on my mind, and then I give them a turn.
- If any of my readers have any questions they care to ask rural farmers in Ghana, post a comment or email me! The majority of their land is devoted to cocoa trees, but most also have plantain, maize, yams or other sustenance crops - so it doesn't just have to be about cocoa.
The Kuapa Kokoo System
I know people have been wondering how Kuapa Kokoo operates, I think I mentioned some of this in previous blogs - if I repeat myself be kind!
When I describe this system, I like to start at the farmers - they are the base of the system, and without them we wouldn't have that sugary brown drug we all know and love!
When a farmer has cocoa that is ready for harvest they cut the pods from the trees and then gather all of the pods and 'crack' them to get at the beans. They cut into the pods with a machete and scoop out the beans along with the sugar rich pulp and pile all of the beans together on a bed of plantain leaves. When that is all said and done they have around 100kg to 400kg of cocoa bean / pulp-y goodness that they cover with more plantain leaves and they leave it for around five days while the beans ferment. Once the beans are all fermented (but not germinated!) they gather the beans and haul them to drying mats, spread the beans out and turn them two times a day until they are dry (from 5-8 days).
sidenote: Drying cocoa beans is about the best smell ever. EVER. It is a mixture of rich-cocoa smell and a slightly perfume-y smell like that of fresh flowers.
Once the cooca is dried the farmer takes the cocoa to a local purchasing clerk (PC) where it is loaded into 64kg bags (205GhC / bag to the farmer). The PCs all meet every Wednesday in Goaso where they report their numbers to the district manager who will then send a truck to the PCs office to pick the cocoa and take it to warehouses. The Cocoa Board (think wheat board) then picks the cocoa from warehouses to bring it to the port for international sale.
So, where does FairTrade come into this whole process?
For those of you that do not know FT sets it's price for certain goods according to a 'minimum' price, where the difference between the minimum price and the market price is returned to the farmers in the form of FT premiums to be spent on social welfare projects, farmer support, or straight cash bonuses (in the case of Kuapa). For the last number of years the market price has been above the FT price, in this case they simply attach a $150USD/tonne which is where the FT premium will come out of. This goes to help farmers in three ways for Kuapa:
- A cutlas in the hand of every farmer!
2. Money, money, money!
At the end of every year each farmer is given a bonus in the form of 2GhC / bag of cocoa they sold to Kuapa Kokoo
3. Schools, and clinics and wells - Oh My!
Kuapa Kokoo has a variety of social welfare projects throughout the cocoa regions of Ghana. These are things like construction and facilitation of schools, wells and mobile medical clinics. I have talked to a few people about these programs and have been assured that it is more than 'I see a problem, lets build something!' solutions. They are long term projects where support networks are set up to ensure lasting effects.
My last comment on the Kuapa Kokoo system (for now!) has to do with the strong pride and involvement the farmers have in the system. These people are very proud to be supplying the world with the best cocoa to make the best chocolate. If any of my friends in Ghana would like to see this in action do this, please:
- Find a KK farmer / staffer. Walk up to the person and proudly proclaim, "Kuapa!" in a bold voice. The person will instantly respond, "Pa Pa Papa!" enthusiastically
Well, I have written enough for now I think - Stay tuned for another blog post later this week concerning a village and the Pit of Doom.