Saturday, July 24, 2010

Africa Trip, 2010

This year, I have one co-voyager in Cote d'Ivoire: my mother, Dorothy Neuhaus, who is 86 years old. In Ghana, we will be joined by Suzanne Angell, who owns a chocolate company in San Diego.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 20

The trip starts with a bus ride from San Luis Obispo to LAX. At 12:30 AM, I flew to Minneapolis.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21

The connecting flight to Omaha was to leave at 9 AM, but the flight was cancelled due to mechanical failure. I was reassigned to a flight that left at 11:30 AM. My goal was to pick up my mother in Omaha. Possibilities were looking dim, especially when they announced that this second flight was also suffering from mechanical problems. Then, two minutes later, they changed the announcement and we boarded. I arrived in Omaha an hour before our departure and found my mother. We boarded a flight to Detroit (our old home). Unfortunately, even though we had arrived early, we barely (less than 30 seconds) made it to the gate in time. It was very difficult getting my mother across the entire airport in 15 minutes, especially given her bad knee.

We arrived in New York City on time and took a cab to the hotel, which was located near the airport.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 22

We spent the morning at the port. The Human Relations director was very accomodating, making available a guide (same as last time) for about two hours even though we had not written a formal request.

Cocoa beans are shipped in a variety of ways: in bags in containers, in totes, pumped into the holds of ships. Here is a video of men running out of the warehouse with 150-lb bags on their shoulders.





The following morning, we joined my children, James and Juliet, for breakfast at a restaurant on 29th Street.

We then walked to the Empire State Building, which has been refurbished by the Clinton Foundation (I believe). Every window was taken out and a thin plastic film was inserted between the panes, saving the building millions of dollars per year in energy costs.

We visited the intererior of the Empire State Building. As monumental as it still is, the lobby is quite understated. We walked to the second floor, where hundreds of people wait to go to the top (cost $20 each) but because of expense and the weather, we elected instead to study the dioramas about the building's refurbishment.

Afterwards, we walked north on 5th Avenue. Mom posed with Lady Liberty, who was loitering humorlessly outside this store of patriotic tchotchkes.

We ambled to 42nd Street, where I took this picture of James, Juliet, and Dorothy outside the New York Public library. I couldn't help thinking about Ghostbusters and the scene in the stacks--being a person who is very much in touch with American culture. We spent time in Grand Central Station, admiring the architecture, then walked to 59th Street, checked out the Plaza Hotel, and took a cab to 46th Street, aka Restaurant Row. This is where my father learned to appreciate French cuisine at the end of WWII, when he was working for Merck & Company, producing antibiotics for overseas.

After a very pleasant dinner, my mother and I took a cab for the airport, where we checked into the Royal Air Maroc flight. We boarded on time, but then sat on the ground for 3 hours while the plane taxied all over the airport while it rained cats and dogs, and all the grassy areas turned into lakes. Finally, we were given the OK, and we took off at around 11 PM.

MONDAY, AUGUST 23

We arrived in Casablanca, Morocco, 1 1/2 hours late, at 9:30 AM. Our luggage had been checked on to Abidjan, so we had a day to take a cab into Casablanca. Our cab driver this time was barely fluent in French. He drove us first to the Hassan II mosque, although he kept mumbling something under his breath that he couldn't share. He dropped us off, and we walked the quarter mile on the marble-covered plaza to the ticket sales. A very helpful man told me that we had arrived just in time for the last tour of the day, since it was Ramadan and the mosque was reserved for worship in the afternoon. So without informing the taxi driver, we entered the mosque, a truly remarkable building that holds 20,000, has a roof that slides open, and is finished in marble and other mineral derivatives.After a quick appreciation of the mosque, we returned to the taxi and went in search of an open Moroccan restaurant. We lucked upon this, which was in the "Corniche" area, a mile or so south of the mosque, right on the ocean and north of the ugly, built up European aquatic playground.We started the meal with a typical Moroccan soup traditionally served after sundown during the month of Ramadan along with dates and a fried pastry. We continued with lamb mechoui and lamb with salted lemon and olives. After lunch, I instructed the driver to take us to the Old Medina, or old town, which faces the old port. We entered through an 18th century gate. The narrow streets and crush of people shopping were too much for Mom, so we left the Medina after only half an hour. I instructed the taxi driver to take us back to the airport, and we were there with 3 hours to spare before departure.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 24

The plane left on time and we arrived at 1 AM in Abidjan. All four bags arrived with us (not always the case in the past). I did have a little adventure with the bag full of solar lights, but the official who challenged me for bringing what looked like imported valuables let me go with a mere frown. A van from the Golden Hotel was waiting for us in the lobby, and we arrived in our rooms at 2:30 AM.

After a few hours of sleep, I was awakened by Albert Kouassi Konan, my assistant. We and my mother descended to the dining room and ate breakfast. Meanwhile, the driver arrived with our car. After breakfast, we set out to visit one of the world's great modern cathedrals, St. Paul. Our guide was extremely knowledgable and friendly. The church was designed by an Ivorian architect. It is full of symbolism. For example, it is shaped as a triangle, reflecting the Trinity. The roof has 7 ribs, representing the 7 sacraments, and these ribs rise to a point, representing the rising of the human to heaven. The stained glass windows are a little less remarkable, especially the large one that commemorates the first two missionaries to set foot in Cote d'Ivoire--actually at Grand Bassam.

After an hour at the cathedral, enjoying its many facets, we set out for Grand Bassam. This involves driving out to the airport, past the French garrison and through Port Bouet. We stopped at Evariste's house to deliver a bunch of gifts. Evariste, my former assistant, is now living in the U.S., having received political asylum. Here is a picture of two of his children (Grace and Thomas) and his mother. After delivering the gifts and taking pictures, we proceeded on to Grand Bassam, which is the original capital of Cote d'Ivoire. Established in 1850,, Grand Bassam had become a fair-sized European town by 1899, when it was abandoned as the capital due to a yellow fever epidemic that killed 45 of 60 residents. This picture is of the old hotel. The place is literally a ghost town. The bridge to the island, Pont de la Victoire, commemorates the massacre of dozens of wives of prisoners shortly after WWII; they were protesting the incarceration of their husbands. The French were as cruel as the Dutch in their treatment of the indigenous peoples.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25

We set out early the next morning for Abidjan and then on to Yamoussoukro, arriving there in the early afternoon. Our first goal was to visit Albert's sister's home, where we met Albert's two sons. His wife recently lost her father and, as is the custom, has been staying in her parent's village for some time. During such a period, other relatives take over the raising of children. We had a very nice lunch, including fufu and gnagnam(sic?), which is a sauce made with small berries that are very peppery. We met his sister's son, who is a young, budding IT engineer, and her husband, who teaches IT at the university.

After lunch, we drove to the university, and I talked to him about the possibilities of developing a collaboration between our two institutions.

Our next stop was the Basilique Notre Dame de la Paix. This is an enormous and very attractive building. Patterned after St. Peter's of Rome, it is over 500 feet high, its ambulatory being 110 feet above the nave and projecting out from the building, allowing a view of the surrounding countryside. The dome of the church sports an attractive banding of pastel colors climaxed by a dove of peace in the center. The church is a real jewel, designed by an Ivorian architect and dominating the surrounding countryside. Our guide was extremely informative and pleasant, adding to the glory of the surroundings.

By this time, it was close to 6 PM, and we had another 2 hours to go. We set out on a road full of potholes. As the light dwindled, the road's potholes, bicyclists, and pedestrians became quite a challenge for the driver. We arrived in Daloa at 8 PM.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 26

Note about village names: villages end in different suffixes. -kro means the inhabitants are Baoulé (as in Yamoussoukro); -guhe means the inhabitants are Bété (as in Broguhe); and -fla means the inhabitants are Gouro (as in Sinfra--misspelled by the French.)

This morning, we visited Broguhe, a village that I have been visiting since 2004. We have donated a scale, a dryness meter, boots, cutlasses, t-shirts, flashlights to Broguhe, and last year, we dug a well. The chief, Méguhé Sery Léon, has four wives. Here are his latest two.I am very fond of him.

This year, we donated a solar light, solar-powered flashlights, t-shirts, and chocolate. The chief's wife showed me the sewing room, and I did a video of her explaining how electrification of the room would make it possible for her to teach sewing to young women of the village.

After Broguhe, we drove to Abékro, a village that we added to our list just last year. We donated a weighing scale last year, and this year, we brought several solar-powered houselights, 25 solar-powered flashlights, chocolate, and t-shirts. As always, we started by exchanging news, drinking something, and being welcomed into the village. This picture is of the village chief, Konan Allou.

Albert had called ahead to arrange for Abékro to set up demonstrations of different steps in cocoa growing and fermentation.

The first picture I took was of the "Pepiniere" or germination area. In this particular Pepiniere, they were sprouting both cocoa seeds and other forest trees.















In this picture, our demonstrator is planting a seedling in a hole he had just dug with the machete. This shows how important machetes are. They serve for house construction, weeding, harvesting, preparing dinner, cutting open cocoa, and digging.

While I was taking pictures of steps in the cocoa planting process, this family, consisting of a mother, children, and some cooking utensils, was walking past, going to the fields to work. Our demonstrator then showed how cocoa is harvested. He made it a point to say that young children are not allowed to use a cutlass in order to harvest cocoa, that such a task is performed by the father. I suspect that he said this because his land is UTZ-certified, meaning that he has attended a farmer field school, where such issues are discussed. His wife picks up the pods. It was explained to me that men harvest, women and children gather, then men cut open the pods, and children scoop the seeds out.



















There are many ways to ferment. This shows how you ferment a small quantity of beans, simply by making a v-shaped fermentor, lining it with banana leaves, and filling with the beans, then covering, and collecting the drippings to be consumed as "Banggi", which is a mildly alcoholic (4-8%) drink.










After our demo's we walked back to Abekro, where we did the donations ceremony, which always starts with the chief asking us for the news, to which one always responds, "Les nouvelles sont bonnes" or "the news is good."












We donated solar lights for lighting homes. This picture shows the president of the women, Kouadio Amoin Kan Madeleine.









We also donated solar powered flashlights. Pictured is the president of the young people, Kouadio Kouamé.









After Abekro, we stopped by the "Monkey Village", located on the road to Issia. For $10, you are allowed to feed the monkeys, which are aggressive, yet cute. The monkeys live in very tall trees located next to the village. The story goes that back when the French first made Cote d'Ivoire a colony, they would enter villages and take slaves (actually, they did forced labor, which is slightly different). Anyway, a doctor decided to brew a potion that would convert his family into monkeys in order to avoid enslavement. However, he didn't have time to brew the counter-potion. So the whole family was stuck and that's why no one eats these monkeys.





We drove down to Issia and stopped by Pezoan. Everyone was just returning from the fields, so they were all dirty and tired and only a few showed up. So we told them we would return the next day.

We continued on to Depa, another couple miles down the road. The chief was around and we sat with him and the elders, exchanging news and drinking Bangi (palm wine.) The chief is wearing the Sweet Earth t-shirt. As the light dwindled, we continued with the gifts ceremony. I started by handing the chief the envelope containing pictures taken by Anna and Katie, who came with me last year. I continued with the other donation--the solar house lights, the flashlights, t-shirts, and chocolate.


FRIDAY, AUGUST 27

The following day, we started with a formal ceremony in which I was dressed as chief. We then had lunch with the chief and then continued to Pezoan where we exchanged news and donated the gifts. Mom was welcomed and asked to live to 100 by passing a live rooster around her 4 times.










The chief brought out the cocoa scale that we had donated only months earlier. Here he is, posing on it.












After Pezoan, we drove down the road a piece to Zereguhe, exchanged news, drank a little something, and presented our donations. This bicycle represents the prestige the U.S. continues to enjoy in Cote d'Ivoire. I suspect the respect we get is based on Might Makes Right, not on any appreciation on our works in Africa, as Norway, Holland, and Germany are doing far more when you take into consideration their populations.





We continued to Tetia, a village that we had never visited before. The chief of Tetia seemed a little puzzled about what was happening. I am not quite sure how to read his face. His spokesman was crying when we left, perhaps overwhelmed by the fact that we had given them a valuable scale as well as the solar lights and flashlights.In this picture, we are fooling with the scale, which had gotten a little jimmied during the trip. Albert, my assistant, called the scales people, and within an hour or so, he had driven from Daloa to Tetia and had made it work properly.We didn't stay long, because we had two more stops. We followed the rutted dirt road that had led us to Tetia farther into the forest, away from the main road. This trip took about 15 minutes of bouncing around, alternately taking mud baths in the ponds left by the rains.

Djahakro was our destination. Last year, we had given them a scale. This year we had dug a well that had cost $2500. As of this writing, I do not know if they have yet found water. They used magic to locate the appropriate spot. At the time of our visit, the well was down to about 40 feet.





Djahakro had also agreed to demo how to extract cocoa. Here are a few pictures I took.


We couldn't drive to Soualika, where we had delivered a cocoa weighing scale months earlier. Turns out, the bridge had washed out in a recent rain. So, we had a pleasant dinner with the chief of Djahakro, then drove back to Tetia, where the scale maker was fixing the scale we had just delivered. Finally, we spent the night at a hotel right at the base of the giant rock of Issia (about 400 feet high and a couple miles in diameter).

SATURDAY, AUGUST 28

We set out around 9 AM toward Yamoussoukro. This time, we took the hypotenuse, driving through Sinfra, an important cocoa growing community. Around noon, we stopped at Albert's sister's house, had lunch, and then drove north toward Bouake to visit a village of weavers.

On our way there, we stopped for a refreshing drink of coconut juice.









This picture is of a display of cloths made by the local weavers, who are mostly children. They are an important part of each village's economy. Just as in pre-oil days in Europe and North America, when children were a significant addition to farm labor. It was his personal hatred of life on the farm that drove Henry Ford to invent the Model T, liberating many children in the process.







The weaving machines consist of four poles driven into the ground. The poles root and sprout leaves, which provide structure and shade. The threads for weaving stretch out about 50 feet in front of the machine, which is made completely of wood and a few pieces of metal.














After buying some woven cloths, we drove back south and stopped at this Atteke factory, located on a corner. Atteke is made by grinding fresh cassava with fermented cassava, then steaming the product (I have left out a few steps.) The result is sold having a consistency similar to grits. You eat it cold or hot, often with grilled meat. It tastes a bit like sour grits. Perhaps grits stem from atteke. The first picture shows a woman grinding the cassava. The second picture shows a woman steaming the grits before putting it in bags for bulk sale.




















We spent the night in Yamoussoukro.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 29

We set out around 9 AM with the idea of attending a church service somewhere for my mother's sake. Houphouet Boigny's church was utterly packed. So we elected to start our trip and find some small town where we could feel more comfortable. About 15 minutes out of Yamoussoukro on the road south we found this charming, open-air church. We sat on the last banquette (sic) and listened to a service given alternately in French and Baoule.

We arrived in Yamoussoukro in the evening.

MONDAY, AUGUST 30

In the morning, we visited the bank and I settled accounts with Albert and with the driver. Then we drove to the Hotel Ivoire to see one of Houphouet Boigny’s “investments”, trying to match the grandiosity of Mobutu but backed only by a World Bank loan. Unfortunately, the hotel was closed for renovation, so we walked around the periphery of the neighboring casino.

The Hotel Ivoire, from the outside.











The casino …











The Abidjan skyline from the casino …








At noon, we drove to the airport and took an Emirates flight to Accra, arriving about 4:30 PM after a 40 minute flight that included a lunch! Emirates is a very nice airline. Spotless, efficient, and great service.
Alex and Peter’s girlfriend picked us up at the airport and we drove to Peter’s house. Peter was still en route back from a day trip to the Akosombo region, where he was doing research about a Fair Trade banana cooperative.
Once Peter arrived, we drove to Suzanne’s hotel. Suzanne, who owns a chocolate company with her husband. We had dinner together: some of the toughest beef I’ve ever eaten. It was basically butterflied shoe leather with jollof rice.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 31

Our first adventure this morning was to drive to the Cocobod, the government agency that controls all aspects of the cocoa industry: training farmers, doing research on new varieties, running nurseries, monitoring quality, providing agricultural inputs (e.g., pesticides, fungicides), and selling the cocoa to foreign buyers.

We were fortunate enough to be able to spend an hour with Mr Ambrose Aweeti, a representative of the Cocobod with whom Peter had done some work. Peter, who works for GTZ, has been working on a crop insurance system to protect farmers from future destruction of their livelihoods caused by climate change.

I started by describing our Adopt a Village project (www.globalcocoaproject → Adopt A Village). I then described my ideas about the establishment of a cocoa study center in a village. The proposed Center for Cocoa Study would include: sleeping quarters for 6 students and faculty; a teaching classroom; a laboratory for doing cutting tests and chocolate analysis; and a chocolate production facility.

And it would foster:
• Study of Cocoa Village Life: university undergraduate students lack direct experience of aspects of international agriculture. A center would permit them to develop skills in interviewing and researching while gaining an understanding of the subtleties and complexities of this field.

• Development of a Cottage Industry: the cocoa farmer still produces cocoa for other countries. What if he or she could produce and distribute chocolate locally and internationally—like grape growers who also produce wine?

• Opportunity for mutual education and understanding: American universities including academic areas of agriculture, economics, political science, and sociology, could fund and use such a center. Their relationship might involve purchasing chocolate from the center as well as sending students to study there.

• Development of Eco-Tourism: the wine industry has successfully developed tourism programs. Why not cocoa? Visitors to the cocoa center could attend classes in cocoa growing and processing as well as chocolate production.

He practically fell off his chair with excitement—especially about the cottage industry. This idea has been discussed for years by members of the Cocobod.

After the interview, we set out for Kumasi. For two hours, we drove on the Kumasi highway, which had been converted into a rutted dirt road by the Chinese general contractors and their Ghanaian laborers. They had removed all the pavement and were blasting their way through a wide swath of the countryside. In addition to the employment of unskilled labor on the road, lots of locals were hauling the rock away, sorting it into piles and selling it.

While looking for the turnoff to visit Glover, a company specializing in organic and soon Fair Trade cocoa, we came across this cocoa nursery that is run by a branch of the Cocobod (pronounced cocoa board.)

After two hours of arduous stop and go traffic, we took a side road in order to visit Yayra Glover, who owns a company (Glover) that specializes in training cocoa farmers in organic techniques and that will be selling Ghanaian organic, Fair Trade cocoa within the next year.

Yayra lived in Switzerland for 20 years. He is married to a Swiss woman and they have 4 children. He had a nice-paying white collar job working for some police agency. However, he was yearning to come back home, so here they are.

Yayra Glover



One of the projects Yayra is working on is distribution of this plastic netting that will replace the bamboo mats currently manufactured by the farmers themselves.









The Glover logo.








View from Yayra’s office








When I described my Cocoa Study Center project to Yayra, he informed me that he was planning an organic village and that perhaps we could find something in common there. The enthusiastic energy generated by this exchange caused me to ask if we could visit the site. Turns out the site was 45 minutes back south, so we ended up driving back toward Accra. His land is right along the road, so given his abilities, I have no doubt that his organic cocoa village will be successful, especially given the importance of this new highway which is going to lead to considerable economic development along the Accra-Kumasi corridor.
We headed north again, having lost about two hours on this side trip. We turned off on the road to Tafo, the location of CRIG or Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana and arrived around 4 PM. Peter, as always, persuaded a young woman to show us around. Several people showed us the research area, where they have projects that include demonstration of alternate ways of fermenting and drying cocoa. This also includes trapping the “sweatings” which usually are discarded. When you ferment beans, the excellent juice associated with the white flesh surrounding each bean is often lost. If caught, this can be turned into a sweet-tart, mildly alcoholic drink, similar to the palm wine that is de rigueur in any West African village.

Susanne, mom, and Peter


WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 1

Today, we completed the drive to Kumasi and arrived in the afternoon during rush hour. Kumasi is a large town, so rush hour involves a certain amount of gridlock. We reached Kuapa Kokoo, which is a large cocoa cooperative with 75,000 members that sells 20% of its cocoa Fair Trade. It owes much of its success to the sales of its brand, Divine Chocolate, which was adopted by the American Roman Catholic Church several years ago and to its commercial relationship with Cadbury.
We set up an appointment for early the next morning.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

We had a one hour meeting with Kuapa Kokoo at which we agreed that Adopt a Village would add a village chosen by them.

We then drove back east to Lake Bosumtwi, a 12X14 mile meteorite impact crater. BTW, know the difference between a meteor and a meteorite? A meteor is airborne. A meteorite has become one with the ground, causing it to receive the -ite suffix, used for minerals. The lake is surrounded by hills of ejecta and splattered rock. It is several hundred feet deep in the center and is populated by several species of Tilapia.















After spending several hours at Lake Bosumtwi, we drove south, spending most of the day on the road to Cape Coast. We arrived in the late afternoon, ate dinner in Cape Coast, and then drove north toward Kakum National Park and took a rutted dirt side road tp Ebekawopa, the village where I am hoping to build the first cocoa study enter. We spent 2 hours, sitting in the dark while young children played musical instruments and danced. We drove back to the hotel; Suzanne and Peter stayed in the village.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3

We spent the morning in Ebekawopa, where we did the donations ceremony and interviewed a number of individuals. This picture shows one of Ebekawopa's schools. As you can see, villages often build their own schools out of sticks and mud in a desperate attempt to educate their children so they can lead better lives than their farmer parents, who work so hard and earn so little.








Two teenagers from the village of Ebekawopa.








Reverend Sampson (Klutse) has been a great friend, and I have brought many visitors (American college students) to his village. Ebekawopa is a very welcoming place and thanks to his very positive attitude, I see Ebekawopa as the right location for a cocoa study center. This is a picture of him (left) and his family standing on the veranda of their house.






In the afternoon, we returned to Cape Coast, where we did some errands.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4

We started the day by driving to Gyaware, which is at the end of a 5 km difficult road (especially when wet). We let them know that we would be visiting them on Sunday morning, turned around, and drove back to the main, paved road.

Our first village to visit was Adiyaw. I first met them in 2007, when a large crowd gathered and we enjoyed a lot of music, dancing, and general hilarity. This time, it was deserted. Since this was the main festival at Cape Coast, most of the inhabitants had traveled the 45 minutes south to be part of the celebration. This time, only about 15 came. But we got some really good videotaped interviews.

We ask questions such as:

1. How has life changed in this village since you started living in it?
2. How effective is cocoa at generating money to support you?
3. How useful are bicycles in your lives?
4. What sorts of tools are most useful for you?
5. How much education is available to your children?

In this picture, the man on the left is the village chief, and the man on the right owns cocoa farms in both Ebekawopa and Adiyaw.









The second picture shows someone who was coming to the village to build a bed for someone. He's carrying a hand saw and a square. They're laughing because they think I'm silly for taking a picture of a few tools.



After a very profitable series of interviews, we headed farther up the dirt road to Mmaniaye. This village is about 5 km distant from the paved road. This means that getting product to buyers involves moving it down the road to the paved road where a taxi can be called. It also means that children going to secondary school walk at least 6 miles per day. Mmaniaye means "women are ungrateful." The story is that a hunter, who usually brought home the "bacon" was unsuccessful and his wife complained, bitterly.

It was raining heavily when we pulled into the village. This village seems to like to paint graphics on the walls.



We sat down on a veranda and waited for people to show up. As we waited, we noticed this horribly acrid aroma that was making us all choke. I took the time to explore the village in the rain. Here is the source of the acrid smoke... a pot of palm kernel and coconut oils being rendered.








These pictures are of baskets of palm kernels, obtained by cracking the hard nut found at the center of palm fruit, and coprah, the coconut meat.

















Here's a picture that shows that cocoa farmers enjoy whimsy--building a dove house--putting it up in the air with four lengths of bamboo.












The village well. Drawing water is the work of women and children. Women usually do it at 5 AM while the children do their 1 hour of household chores.

The gari factory. The man is seated at a giant flat pan, stirring the gari over a flame to dry it. Gari is stored in plastic bags. It is truly the poor man's food--always the cheapest item in a restaurant. Children bring bags of gari to school for lunch. It is poured into hot water and sweetened with sugar for a beverage.

This is an important kitchen implement: a flat rock (the mortar) and a smaller stone (pestle), used to make various dishes such as light soup, which involves grinding tomatoes and chilis together. Ghanaian food ranges from 5-alarm to 99-alarm. When you ask for minimal spicing in a dish (e.g. okro stew), you receive something close to 5-alarm.









The Ghanaian government built this school, which includes three classrooms. The upper primary grades (6-9, I believe) are taught here as well as all the lower primary grades. This means that children come from miles around. Many childrens' parents simply cannot afford to send their early teenagers on, because of expense and need of labor on the farm. When the children reach adulthood, some remain in the village while others seek their fortunes in the cities, hoping to avoid the hard physical work that farm-life demands. As you can imagine, this building receives very heavy use.







We met Soledad's mother during the gift ceremony. Soledad had been sponsored by an earlier voyager, Kate Montgomery. I understand that she is living in Accra and looking for work. As mentioned earlier, young women are now by and large leaving the village and seeking their fortunes in the city. Many end up selling wares on the streets for others, earning as little as 20 Ghana cedis per month ($180 per year). According to Alex, our driver, these young women purchase used Chinese clothing that looks flashy and then come back to the village to show how successful they've been. However, as they usually find out, the key to independence is education, available only to a few and available inconsistently.

As imperfect as the city life is, village life is hard. Young women often end up pregnant by 16 and spend their days fetching water, caring for children, cooking, etc. Hopefully Soledad, who is strikingly beautiful and smart as well, will find a reasonable life in the city.












Skyline and Soledad, August, 2008

We gave out a chocolate heart and a flashlight but of course ran out, and a lot of fighting and arguing resulted. Some people accepted the dearth fatalistically, while others became quite belligerent. We gave out the 100 hearts and 25 flashlights on the veranda and I began to fear for our safety because people were pressing hard to get a candy or a flashlight. Very very few of the villagers have ever tasted chocolate, so it's a total surprise and pleasure for them when they do, and passions run high.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5

In the morning, we visited the village of Gyaware, distant from the main road by about 5 km. The name means, "Too far. Let's divorce." Apparently, the chief named it in the mid 1960's, against the wishes of the inhabitants, who preferred a nicer name. But the chief is king, so the name has stuck.




As we drove into the village, the town crier started hitting the gong, which consists of a locally fabricated piece of iron designed to make a loud noise.



When all had gathered, we went through the gifts ceremony. Peter is seen here translating my English into Fante, the language of the Fante peoples who live between the Pra/Bitim rivers and the ocean.



We did some really excellent interviews; by then, we were getting much better. In recognition of our donations, the chief gave us this chicken to take with us.






All this hard work stimulated the appetite, so we drove to Kakum National Park and ate in the restaurant. In typical fashion, the food came out irregularly. Everyone had finished by the time I received my food, but it was well worth the wait. It was a spicy beef stew with Garifoto. Gari is of course the fermented and dried cassava meal described earlier. With the suffix "foto", it is gari cooked with a liquid, in this case the stew's juice. So it is bright orange, and it had a wonderful flavor of tomatoes and onions.



After lunch, we drove south on the road to Jukwa, home of the chief of the entire region. In reality, he is a king, and his living room sports three thrones covered in silver and gold. We gave him one of the solar house lights, some chocolate, and t-shirts. He was very pleased. Being an old man, he had a bit of a scowl, but when Peter explained 19th century history and the role of kings in it, his face broke into a wide smile, and he complimented Peter. His family has ruled most of the central region (a large piece of land consisting of several thousand square miles) for over 300 years.


Afterwards, we drove to Takoradi, the large port in the Western region from which much of the country's cocoa is exported.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6

We spent the morning in the port. The director of human relations graciously consented to provide us with a guide even though we had not written a formal request in advance.

We spent time in this warehouse, interviewing the director about some of the details of how the Cocobod functions and about how organic/FT beans are kept separate. We also talked about the infamous company, Armajaro, which recently bought up large quantities of cocoa in order to drive up the price.




video

We drove around the docks. Here's one ship stacked with containers. In the middle are large round logs, whose importation has been banned by certain countries in order to attempt to preserve the last vestiges of rainforest left in West Africa. Obviously, some countries cheat, and what's left of the rainforest just continues to disappear.







Just before setting out on the road back to Accra, we visited an old friend, Padmore, who has figured in my 2007, 2008, nd 2009 blogs. Padmore has now established himself as a cellphone tycoon in downtown Takoradi. We are proud of his initiative! Padmore is currently squatting on a sidewalk of a street just off a busy part of town; If you want to help Padmore become "legal", I have his email and his phone number.

















We end this year's blog with a picture of pineapples. On the way back to Accra, we enjoyed some of the sweetest, juiciest pineapples I have ever had. Pictured are Peter and Alex, inspecting the crop.

Thanks to your patience, dear Reader, for enduring my blog. And many thanks to Alex for his superb driving skills, to Peter and Albert for putting together the two tours, and to Suzanne for her great researching skills.


6 comments:

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Fakharuddin40 said...

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John said...

Congratulations on your fantastic work. Hope all is going well. John Croft, currently living in Germany.

Jesica said...

Are you doing another trip any time soon? I really want to visit a cacao plantation. If so, please email garroujesica at gmail

Thanks.

Jesica said...

Will you be leading another trip soon? I would love to visit a cacao plantation.

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates said...

I am leading a trip this coming August. Check out details at www.projecthopeandfairness.org. Tom Neuhaus. Or contact me at tom@projecthopeandfairness.org