Chocolate isn't just a treat or a sweet indulgence. It's an safari of the senses, taking you across continents and into the heart of a narrative that reaches back for millennia. It's a story of distant shores, of discovery and adventure. It's a story of of intrigue and political drama. It's a story of progress, of enterprise and science. Most of all, it's a story of passion - a passion that has conquered the world, and which continues to bring people together on a shared, delicious journey.
The story continues. Be part of it.
Join the Chocolate Safari.
Day one: Heathrow to Amsterdam/ Accra Luggage allowance is 2 x 23kg 25 kg of which was of chocolate to make sure that all the farmers could taste the chocolate they grow the beans for.
Heathrow breakfast in café rouge T3 and meet Beth from the Grocer; quick introductions then rush through check in, my 2 cases one full of chocolate, and customs for the 10am flight to
Amsterdam. A packed KLM flight and short delay, so when we got to Amsterdam we only had an hour to wait. As we arrived at our gate we found Ger from Kinsale distribution working on
his laptop, and Melanie from Fairtrade mark Ireland just arrived in from Dublin; again quick introductions and then the full body scan through security then off over the Sahara the
plane is bouncing about, but we are excited at the chance to visit the Kuapa Kooko cocoa farms.
Melanie said she couldn’t believe it. We were going to meet cocoa farmers, to talk to their children in a school and to find out how Kuapa Cocoa works. First hand.
Kuapa Cocoa farmers own their company. It’s a cooperative. They get paid fair prices for their cocoa beans and for every tonne they harvest they get more money paid into their community to help them with their children’s schooling and many other things..
Akwaaba Ghana arriving at Accra we collected our cases and changed £ for Cedi about (2.4= £1) and headed out for the shuttle bus to the Shangre-La hotel.
The dark the streets and roads were overflowing with people coming home from work in busses, taxis and tro-tros (anything that’s not a bus or taxi); people were selling everything from food, water, tissues, spanner sets and mobile phone holders amongst the traffic.
The hotel was only a ten-minute ride away; we all checked in, had a quick wash and met for a drink and a chat about what we all expected from the trip.
Kuapa office & Beyrebon number 3
Started the day at 5:30 in 21-degree heat with a mini bus trip through Accra polo club and to the domestic airport to take our flight to Kumasi. We had a short wait sitting
as close to the larges fans as possible to keep cool and enjoying people watching, seeing everything from oil riggers covered in tattoos and business men dressed in smart suites.
We all went through the security checks and boarded our small plane for the 35 min city link flight north to Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. Once in-flight we got the chance to see
the city from the air, giving a fantastic view of the village structure and nested groups of huts and farms.
We were met at the airport by Nicolas Adjei-Gyan from Kuapa Kooko who took us on a 30 min journey through the busy streets passing the Baba Yara stadium to drop our bags at the REES hotel on Stadium Road and then round the corner to the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative office
Kuapa Kokoo co-operative office
We were greeted by the whole team: Mr Buah (past president) Madam Christiana Ohene Agyare the new President, members of the executive and Nanna Kwaku Bio; there were some familiar faces in Comfort, Erica and Kwabana.
After we introduced ourselves and our reasons for visiting Kuapa Kokoo co-operative I gave a chocolate tasting session that was translated so all could enjoy the masses of chocolate I had brought with me; they all loved the dark and raspberry chocolate. Regiana gave us a good presentation on Kuapa Kokoo co-operative explaining the reason Kuapa Kokoo co-operative was set up the its values, aims and structure as well as the new child labour programme that’s been rolled
out this month to teach train and protect children in the region.
1am: we all boarded the bus and headed out to Beyrebon number 3 travelling against the flow of traffic that was coming into Ghana’s second city. We drove north out of Kumasi. The streets were packed with people selling things.
shops that unfolded from crates and parasols at the side of the road or gardens filled with car parts. Women carrying large bowls of nuts fruit and bags of water on their heads. Everyone was
wearing bright colours. Many European football shirts. Barcelona. AC Milan. Bayern Munich. Chelsea.
We drove for two hours through trees and shrubs and fields of corn, the road sometimes tarmac other time’s just hard mud. The countryside was beautiful, the smell of burning fields occasionally wafting into the car, and street signs, one butcher’s shop had the sign that read: ‘IF GOD SAYS YES WHO CAN SAY NO’ and a street sign stating: ‘NO URINATING HERE BY ORDER’. (of who?)
It seems Vodafone rule here as their logo is everywhere, they even branded entire blocks of flats in the familiar red and white logo; and Coke had branded the toll booth. We travelled for around 2 hours on the road, dodging potholes and taxis then turned off onto a dirt track for about an hour’s travelling through breath-taking countryside villages spotting cocoa farms with drying tables full of cocoa in different stages, palms and cassava.
We eventually arrived at Beyrebon number 3 and the familiar face of I Elias Mohammed the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society
Elias Mohammed is a 52-year-old cocoa farmer, and is a member of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative living in Bayerebon3. He has two and a half acres of farming land producing about twelve bags of cocoa a year. He has five children and has been able to send them all to the school in the village built with Fairtrade premiums. Two have now gone on to senior secondary school. The whole village came to meet and greet us asking us our reasons for visiting and then explaining what benefits they have enjoyed since becoming
members of Kuapa Kokoo co-operative the president of the society went on to tell us that the school they have is all down to Kuapa Kokoo co-operative and the Fairtrade community here is growing, the people who live here are now proud to say we live in Beyrebon number 3 the one with the Bayerebon 3 Kuapa Kokoo co-operative
We walked for about ten mins in 38-degree sun into the forest and to the farm where we were shown cocoa growing along side of Cocoa yams, palms and plantains. Elias then explained and demonstrated how to care for the farm, weeding and harvesting;
The farm – of about 12 acres – produces up to 10 bags of beans a year. Worth about £200 for them, which is a good wage in Ghana. The best thing about the beans is that as well as the farmers’ money, each bag earns the community some more money. The school we had just visited had been paid for through the Fairtrade premium.
Elias knows to produce good quality cocoa the farmers need to make sure that it is well fermented and well dried, two processed that take about ten days. And because each bag of cocoa for Divine Chocolate can be traced back to the village of origin, the Elias is very particular about the cocoa
they buy from the individual Kuapa farmer he told us he often helps the farmers prepare their cocoa to ensure that the cocoa in Divine is pa pa paa! – The best of the best!
Bayerebon 3 village school
Another person I felt I already knew was 14 years old Jennifer Oforiwaa Kusi Jennifer lives in Beyrebon 3 village. Her father is a cocoa farmer and a member of the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ cooperative, and her mother runs a shop selling basic food stuffs such as rice. Jennifer knows a bit about the role Fairtrade plays in her community –
“Fairtrade supports Kuapa,” she says. “Fairtrade means my father gets a bonus. And I got to go on one of the kids camps that Kuapa Kokoo organises for children of cocoa farmers.”
We meet the headmaster and pupils who told us the impact that Fairtrade makes in their lives . He told us that the teachers are paid extra by Kuapa Kokoo co-operative to offer extra help in subjects where the students need it.
The children asked me what football team do you support. I live near Leeds so its Leeds United, I said, No one had heard of them.
Who is your favourite player? I told them my favourite Ghanaian who player for Leeds is Tony Yeboah, They all knew Yeboah.
What is your wife called?
How old is your son?
We left chocolate bars for the students, some school books and a new leather football with a
pump. Following this we went back to the village and shared some chocolate.
Then it was back to Rees hotel in the dark, a quick wash and a drink at the bar before
dinner; we were the only people in the restaurant that had a Chinese themed menu – 2 veggi meals and 2 meat dishes that took a little while to arrive but was good.
Awaham society, Juaben depot, Bonwire Kente village I am writing this sat by the hotel pool it’s 7 am and the sun is shining ;the rest of the group are still in bed, breakfast isn’t till 8 am it’s a great way to start the day.
Back into the restaurant to a breakfast that consisted of toast, an omelette and tea or coffee - so that’s 4 toast and omelettes please!
We walked round to the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative office and set off for our next community, after about 1.5 hours driving we turned off onto a red dusty track and waved to passing people who carried all sorts of things to and from the market houses with drying mats outside covered in cocoa.
We arrived at Awaham Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society which is a 25-minute drive from
effiduase in the Ashanti region, to be greeted by Juliet Brago is 45 years old, a mother of two and has been a cocoa farmer for 14 years. She joined Kuapa Kokoo, the co-operative of cocoa farmers 2002 and has her own 10 acre cocoa farm. Juliet the secretary of the society and some of the executive members. Juliet explained that the women of the community wanted to have a corn crushing mill to take some of the back-breaking work out of preparing cornmeal., the nearest mill was 2 miles away so they made a request Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust (KKFT), and were successful.
The corn mill project was commissioned on Thursday, July 15 2010 at an estimated cost of GH¢ 5,900.
I asked if it was important to the members that they own a chocolate company themselves she replied by saying: ‘it makes us all very proud to supply the best cocoa for the best chocolate and because we own it, we get more of the profits which helps the whole village’.
Again after stating our reasons for wanting to visit we shared some chocolate and went to visit the school leaving behind a football and some more chocolate.
Juliet then took us to see her cocoa farm About a ten 15 minute walk from the village in 40 degree heat Juliet usually goes to the farm at 7:30 am and comes back around 3:30 pm often eating there.
Juliet demonstrates how to harvest cocoa her husband starts using the machete and a long stick with a hook in the end ( a go to hell) to cut down the cocoa pod from the trees.
The cocoa pods grow directly from the trunk of the tree or hangs from the branches.
next Julia opens the cocoa pods, takes out the cocoa beans and places them on a bed of banana leaves covers them with more banana leaves to ferment for at least five days, before it can be sun dried.
Then we walk back to Awaham, to see the drying cocoa process where mats are laid on tables
outside Julias home and the beans are spread out to be sun dried for 7 days
Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society Juaben depot We had lunch with Wiafe Akenten the regional
depot manager waif explained collection and shipping point all the societies send the cocoa
for QA testing and onward shipping the day we were there the government inspectors were
checking quality and moisture levels and tagging sacks for approval to ship to the port.
The first step was to check the moisture content of the cocoa in each sack. Every sack has been
given a number that indicate the village of origin and can be traced. The moisture is checked
with a metal instrument called aqua-boy. The next step is to take cocoa samples from four sides of each bag to make sure the cocoa in the bag is uniformly mixed in terms of colour and size. He then mixes all the sampled cocoa beans and takes a smaller sample that he cuts open and checks for mouldy beans or beans that have germinated or in some cases have not been fermented long enough which results in a different colour. He will reject or place a government seal on the cocoa
and it will be shipped to Tema port.
To produce good quality cocoa (papapa) the farmers need to make sure that it is well
fermented and well dried, a process that takes at least twelve days. And because
each bag of cocoa for can be traced back to the village of origin, the recorders are very particular about the cocoa they buy from the individual Kuapa farmer, which ensures that the cocoa is pa pa paa! – The best of the best!
Bonwire Kente village
Last stop today a cultural shopping break
where we saw the skilful waving of Kente cloth Kente cloth” is a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. Kente was the cloth of kings. Over time, the use of Kente became more widespread, however it is held in high esteem in the Akan family and the entire country of Ghana. In Ghana, kente is made by the Akan people (including the Asante, Fante and Nzema). Kente is also produced by Akan groups in Cote d’Ivoire, like the Baoule and Anyin, who trace their ancestry back to Ghana before the rise of the Ashanti Empire. It is the best known of all African textiles. Kente comes from the word kenten, which means “basket.” The Asante peoples refer to kente as Nwentoma or “woven cloth”.
Some of the cloth had taken 2 years to weave and cost 600 cedi but scarves were only 15 cedi young boys would ask what your name is? While they were talking with you would weave your name on a bracelet very skilful and quick. Then say here I have one for you no prices just give me what your heart says.
Lake Bosomtwe Saturday 27th
Last day we all had breakfast and packed our cases Comforts son Gordon collected us for a trip to see beautiful Lake Bosomtwe, 35km south of Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Ghana, in the town of Abono. Lake Bosomtwe is the largest natural lake in Ghana. The lake, is encircled by rugged mountains thickly vegetated, reaching an altitude of more than
600 metres. The lake is cared for by
the 24 local villages We had a briefing in the visitor centre we were told one theory is that the huge meteorite formed the lake. Another says that it is the crater of an extinct volcano.
Lake Bosumtwi’s crater is 10.5 kilometres in diameter and is slightly larger than the present lake. It is estimated to be 1.07 million years old. There are about 24 villages around the lake, with a population of about 70,000 people who fish for tilapia that is deep fried and sold on the shores. The Ashanti people consider Bosumtwi to be a sacred lake.
According to belief, the souls of the dead come to the Lake Bosumtwi to bid farewell to the God Twi. Because of this, it is considered permissible to fish in Lake Bosumtwi only from wooden planks.
Central Kumasi sight seeing Kumasi is the capital city of the Ashanti region, and historical
centre for Ghana. We visited the Manhyia Palace, the seat of the King of Ashanti and members of the royal family in the northern part of the city. The Palace has a courtyard and a courtroom where
matters dealing with the constitution and customs are deliberated upon the traditional council.
We also saw the monument Kuapa Kokoo co-operative society have commissioned to commemorate
the significant role cocoa farmers have played in the social and economic history of Ghana. Most people in Ghana have cocoa farmers to thank for their education as cocoa has been such a significant income generator over the last century. The statue is on a roundabout in central Kumasi the Sculptor was Samuel Tachie-Appiah Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city and home to the largest market in West Africa we were short on time so we had a ride around central market A trip the market in Africa is like doing your Christmas shopping in a mega mall with only second hand car
salesmen and a jumble sale all together.
The crowds are endless and the salesmen are at times aggressive. Stall after stall are lined next to each other for miles in every direction 12 hectares in all