Friday, September 7, 2007

Wednesday, August 15

We met with four officials of Kuapa Kokoo at around 9AM. My old contact, Nicholas Agyei-Gyan arranged the meeting. The meeting started on a defensive note, as the assumption of the Kuapa Kokoo people seemed to be that we were somehow a threat to them. They asked some pointed questions, which I answered, assuring them that Project Hope and Fairness is devoted to the welfare of the cocoa farmer and not in any way intended to compete with them. We talked about the Fair Trade chocolate business. I asked them what percentage of their cocoa is sold Fair Trade, and they answered “4%”, which is double that of several years ago.

There are those in the U.S. who criticize Fair Trade, claiming it does not accomplish what it claims. In my opinion, how can you judge the effectiveness of a system when the consumers won't even purchase the product? 4% is a pathetically low number, and that's WITH the sales to the Day Chocolate Company which manufactures the Divine Bar. Until Kuapa Kokoo's numbers are closer to 50%, I don't see how one can fairly criticize Fair Trade as a system.

Exterior of Kuapa Kokoo offices. This cooperative has around 40,000 members and represents one of the largest fair trade cocoa cooperatives in the world. Conacado in Dominican Republic is of a similar size, except it is also certified organic. Unfortunately, Kuapa Kokoo is not organically certified--partly because of the Ghanaian government.

These doors to our meeting room represent the excellent wood-carving skills in West Africa. The adinkra symbols at the base of the doors represent the most important of all the symbols. Translated, they mean "Except God" and they refer to the belief that only God knows all.

Before embarking on our afternoon trip, we started with lunch. Stan and I ordered Green-Green. Up until then, Stan was quite interested in eating whatever I ordered. However, this lunch represented a threshold for him and from then on, he was a little more circumspect. Green-green is all about vegetation and the varmints that eat it. The sauce is green, and it bathes the cooked corpses of two vegetation consumers--the Grasscutter, which is a relative of the porcupine, and the African snail, which is about 100X the size of a French snail. In the picture, you can see the foot of the snail projecting above the sauce, like Sydney Opera House above the harbor. Grasscutter is very musky tasting, and green sauce sort of plays up the earthy under- and overtones.

This is a grasscutter. The wild one is quite large. When dead and held by the feet, it is almost 3 feet long. This domesticated version is quite a bit smallesr. The grasscutter is a favorite--consumed at almost any meal. Its flavor, however, is unpleasantly musky.

These are pictures of snails growing on a farm in Cameroon. Throughout West Africa, growing snails is an important way of diversifying one's earning power.

We also asked if we could visit one of their villages, and they assigned one of their members to act as a guide both to the village (KokoFu) but also to Lake Bosumtwi.

We stopped off at the Kokofu society shed. In Ghana, a society is another name for village. This shed, which is "downtown", is really quite small, as you can tell from the picture. It is empty because we are at the beginning of the dry season and the cocoa has all been delivered to Kuapa Kokoo depots, which are regional warehouses.

We then continued to KokoFu. The visit being spur of the moment, we only garnered about 25 farmers. They were not a particularly cheery lot--probably because we were not bearing gifts--and the children were especially disruptive. We stood in an airy screened in building used for raising Grasscutters and had a conversation with the farmers.

After about a half hour conversation, we continued to Lake Bosumtwi, where we were accosted by the usual stream of “guides” all looking to make a buck. Is Lake Bosumtwi an exploded volcano or a meteor impact crater? I think the latter, but for some reason, the matter has not been settled scientifically.

After paying off the lads who had washed our car, we returned to Treasure Land Hotel in the evening.

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