Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thursday, August 23

This morning, we spent in a village about 8 Km from the road. It’s called “Dawayo Chantier.” Dawayo is right on the road: it’s Dr. Brou’s birthplace. Dawayo Chantier is so-named because years ago, the French built a saw-mill here as well as a lot of buildings. (Chantier means “workplace” in French.) Most of these have been consumed by termites, but one or two of the old community buildings with their characteristic clapboard siding still remain. Dr. Brou brought us here because he wants us to pay for a new roof for the school.

To get there, we had to drive 10 Km down a dirt road. Our driver, feeling that one tire seemed low, paid to have it filled with air. This picture shows a typical tire store: old, used tires stacked under a couple trees, a lawnmower engine gerry-rigged to a compressor, and a rubber hose.

We walked through the village to the school grounds, which were quite large and quite different from any other I’ve seen. They had constructed two large fences, designed to hold palm fronds which would keep soccer balls from bouncing outside the grounds. In the inner grounds, there were two schools--one made of wood and at the opposite end, one made of mud brick.

The wood building was actually made of “bamboo”, the tough plant that clearly is not bamboo but which seems very useful for construction purposes. One member of the group following us around told me that they had built the entire structure just this year! And he pointed out where termites had already set about devouring it. Obviously, building public buildings out of cellulose-based materials in an area that used to be jungle is problematic: the bugs destroy it.

Across the soccer field is a mud-brick school that lacks a roof. This community is quite ambitious and seems to have a high respect for education.

Dr. Brou is a very ambitious man. He has many projects and many plans. Although I do not share his ecclesiastical ambitions, I respect him for his concerns about village poverty. In that sense, our missions cross.

Before we left Dawayo-Chantier, we sat together with the oldest men of the village and waited for the chief. It is not good protocol to come and go without announcing your presence to the village chief at the beginning, trading "news" which means telling him your intentions, and then when you plan to leave, ask his permission and exchange gifts. In this case, we didn't bring gift. This is the picture of an old man in the village.

Dr. Brou has obviously built the townspeople up for the event. Several years ago, he promised them a school and, not being able to deliver, I suspect that he has created the expectation that we will. I arrive at this conclusion because everyone followed us and because afterwards--at the leaving ceremony--they gave us a goat. People don’t give goats lightly.

We ate lunch at the doctor’s house. A typical meal in this part of Côte d'Ivoire consists of rice, always rice, two meats and another starch. With this meal, we had rice, monkey in a delicious sauce, chicken, and foutou, which is boiled plantain pounded into a paste.

After eating and saying our good-byes, we departed.

The drive to San Pedro took about 3 hours. At around 4 PM we were in Soubre. I asked Evariste if he thought we could do the Soubre river walk and he responded, “No time.” I’m glad he said that, because when we arrived in San Pedro, there was still time to stop at Saf-Cacao.

Saf-Cacao is the fourth largest cocoa buyer in Côte d'Ivoire--after Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Barry Callebaut. It was started in the early 60s by a Lebanese Shiite family, the Lakiss family. There are 40,000 Lebanese Shiites in Côte d'Ivoire, and they pretty much control the cocoa business. This is a picture of the outside of a warehouse.

Ali Lakiss, the owner, spent about 30 minutes with us. Lakiss, as he is known to his employees, is the third generation of his family to have this business. It started in the early 60s with his grandparents. Saf-Cacao is the fourth largest cocoa buyer in Côte d’Ivoire--after Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Barry-Callebaut.

Although it is best to dry cocoa beans under the sun, this can be difficult. Cocoa beans are harvested, fermented, and dried during the wet season, and sometimes adequate drying is not possible. The beans have to be shipped to the middleman (the traitant) who conditions them--using a low-fired oven to drive off the moisture so they can be stored without developing a moldy flavor. This is the drying oven. Generally, beans of similar moisture content are dried in a single batch.

Beans are shipped free-form, pumped directly into the holds of ships. Or, they are bagged (64 Kg per jute bag) and put in a container. Or, they are "big-bagged", which is being demonstrated in this picture.

We also set up an appointment for Friday morning to have a tour of a neighboring plant that is still accepting cocoa. At the time, Saf-Cacao was shut down for receiving because it had no more space.

No comments: