Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Pa Pa Paa!

Oh! Hello there, by the recent glorious lack of blog posts - you may have thought that something terrible has happened.  If you had thought that you would be wrong.  I have just been so busy that every night when I get home and think, "Hey, blog time!!!" I usually eat some food and then think, "Sleep time would be equally good!" and by that time all hope of a blog has flown out the window.  I apologize for my lack of communication, and reward your patience with a blog!

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:
  1. A cutlas in the hand of every farmer!
Every year every Kuapa farmer receives a new machete which is used to do weeding, tree maintenance, harvesting, processing and food preparation.  I initially questioned this, but after talking to farmers it is very, very popular because they have a shelf life of about 1 year with the amount of use they see - and it is also a moral booster to see such a direct result of your work.

     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
SO, what just happened?  In Twi (the main language in the southern region) 'Kuapa' means 'Good Farmer' and 'Pa Pa Papa' means 'The Best'.  I have not met a Kuapa farmer that does not take great pride in their craft, and in turn is very interested in being able to increase their ability to do this.  It is a constant reminder that agency is key to my (our work).  If a person doesn't think that what they do matters - how can we improve?

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.



  1. Nathan! Awesome blog post. Really straight forward and very interesting.

    I actually had no idea what went on in the black box between tree and chocolate, so I'm glad you explained the process. It isn't what I expected. It's so cool that you are getting to learn that so intimately.

    I love the bit about the farmer pride too. That's so cool. Is it mostly Kuapa farmers who have that pride, or do you find that all farmers (in general, obviously not everyone is the same) have that same pride?

    The re re re gina gina gina cheer may have to be amended to incorporate pa pa papa!!

    keep on rocking!


    p.s. good hook at the end! I can't wait to hear about the Pit of Doom!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return. Plots for sale in Hyderabad

  4. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return. Plots for sale in Hyderabad