I was recently selected to host a chocolate-making workshop in conjunction with Fairtrade Australia. No ordinary chocolate workshop, this experience introduced me to cocoa farmer Mary Appiah, so she could see what happens to cacao beans after they leave her farm in Ghana, West Africa, and how the beans transform into chocolate.
Josophan’s Fine Chocolates is a passionate supporter of the Fairtrade movement and will use around 25 tonne of Fairtrade-certified chocolate this year to handcraft fine chocolates in our production laboratory in Leura.
As the owner and chocolatier, I was honoured to be asked to work alongside Mary, and it was absolutely thrilling to see her reaction to the melted chocolate… the smell, taste and texture all taking her by surprise.
Mary made chocolate truffles, ganache fillings, moulded chocolates and Easter eggs. A single parent of seven (now adult) children, Mary has a 7.5 acre farm in the Enchi district, Western region of Ghana, and is part of Kuapa Kokoo, the Fairtrade-certified cocoa farmers’ organisation in Ghana. Situated in the remote and marginalised parts of the country, farmers like Mary have limited access to healthcare, clean drinking water and most villages do not have access to schools, education materials or teachers.
The Fairtrade premium, a bonus amount of money paid on top of the fair prices for cacao, is used for projects that are agreed on as a result of a democratic process, allowing all the growers to have a vote in how it should be spent to benefit their community.
The premium has funded projects such as schools for the communities in her region, educational learning materials, daycare centres, mobile cinema vans for farmer education programs and a mobile clinic to service the community’s healthcare needs. The Fairtrade Premium has also contributed to facilities to improve sanitation, and to enable clean potable water.
Kuapa Kokoo believes, “an empowered woman means an empowered family”, and is addressing gender inequality issues in African communities through education, training programs and empowerment activities for women. At Kupa, women are increasingly involved at all levels of the organisation’s decision-making process, and Mary currently holds an office bearers role of treasurer. She proudly cites 30 per cent of cacao farms are now being managed by women.
I visited cacao plantations, processing plants and disease control centres in Ghana in 2013, when chosen as part of a delegation visiting from Australia. Perhaps it was this background that made me so inspired by Mary’s story. Regardless, I’m very pleased I was able to be apart of her Australian chapter. I’ve also visited cacao plantations and fair trade processing plants in locations ranging from Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, and seeing first-hand the differences Fairtrade makes to these peoples’ lives confirms we are doing the right thing.
Fairtrade is a small price difference for us, as end-users, to pay. However, it can dramatically change peoples’ lives for the better. We couldn’t be more proud to be championing the cause.