With Easter fast approaching and only a day left until we’ll be consuming copious amounts of chocolate, have any of us truly given thought to where our (beloved) chocolate is coming from, or how exactly it’s produced?
Many Australians have no idea most chocolate products stocked in supermarkets contain ingredients that are sourced from developing countries where there are high levels of exploitation and unsustainable practices.
In this interview, Fairtrade cocoa farmer and single mother-of-seven Mary Appiah in Ghana shares the effect Fairtrade certified products have in enhancing underdeveloped communities. And after reading it, we’ll never shop for chocolate the same way again.
Tell us about your childhood…
I was born in the western part of Ghana – from Enchi.
My childhood was not an easy one, my parents were very poor to take care for me. So I left school at Elementary level.
When I left school, I got married to a French man in the Ivory Coast, but because of a misunderstanding I had to leave him and come back to Ghana.
What is your daily routine?
I get up at 5:30, sweep my compound and fetch water. Then I walk to my farm, which is about seven miles away. It takes me a long time to get there and I have to cross rivers. At 2:30pm I go back to my house, eat my food and go to Kuapa Kokoo shed to receive cocoa from fellow farmers. Part of my job is as a ‘recorder’ – to be a recorder means to buy the cocoa farmed from other farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperation.(Photo: Fairtrade Australia)
Can you walk us through the process of farming the cocoa?
Firstly, when you see that it’s about to rain, you plant the cocoa seeds. Within five years the cocoa trees will start to yield – so from zero to five years you have to weed the farm. Then when the cocoa trees are ready to yield, we harvest. You need a sharp machete to cut the cocoa pods.
After we have collected the pods in one place, all the workers break open the pods – that is what you call “nnobua” in our language. It is very lively: some will sing, some will dance.