Co­coa’s the go for fair trade

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JENNY LING

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.

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