Cocoa’s the go for fair trade
EATING more chocolate may not seem like a palpable way of lifting the living conditions of those in developing countries.
But listening to African farmer Rose Boatemaa Mensah explain how fair trade has helped her and her village you can understand that making small changes matters.
Mensah is in New Zealand for Fair Trade Fortnight which ends on May 18 to highlight the difference fair trade makes for millions of farmers and workers in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Mensah hails from a small village of 400 people in Dantano, Ghana, where she grows cocoa beans with her husband Appau Abrampah Mensah.
When they started farming in 2003 the couple, who have two children, were struggling to survive with their small business only producing about 12 bags of beans a year.
That has flourished to more than 60 bags a year after they joined the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union who visited her village in 2009.
‘‘At first my yields were low . . . After I joined fair trade they took me through training . . . and now I have about 63 bags of cocoa every year.’’
As well as getting a better price for her cocoa, Mensah and other fair trade farmers also get a premium, a sum of money they can invest in education, healthcare and gender equality programmes for their communities.
Mensah says getting clean drinking water was a priority in Dantano.
Waterborne diseases like bilharzia and buluri ulcers were common, she says.
‘‘We were drinking the same water with the animals, from the same stream which was not good for our health.
‘‘Kuapa Kokoo came to the rescue and established a borehole so we could have clean drinking water,’’ Mensah says.
Fair Trade Fortnight started in New Zealand in 2004.
Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand general manager Steve Knapp says the event is a chance to ‘‘say a big thank you’’ to supporters.
‘‘There’s nothing better than talking to somebody that grows the cocoa or coffee and sees the benefits in their community,’’ Knapp says.
‘‘It’s about recognising the fair trade label so they see it and know that’s good for people in developing countries, and for people to understand the power they have as a consumer.
‘‘It’s a movement of people . . . the more people understand and identify with it the more people in farms and developing countries benefit.’’
Knapp says there is 72 per cent recognition of the fairtrade label in New Zealand – one of the highest in the world. The UK, which has the biggest market, rates more than 80 per cent.
Fair call: Ghanaian cocoa farmer Rose Boatemaa Mensah, with some of the fair trade chocolate made with her cocoa.