Yesterday I flew to Kumasi City, just North and West of Ghana’s capital of Accra. It was the last leg of my 24-hour journey but I will be based in Kumasi for the rest of the week. The city itself is bustling. Petrol stations, women carrying everything from baked goods and plastic bottles of water on their heads, men selling bandanas and chocolate bars in the streets, and entire buildings painted red for either Vodafone or Coca-Cola advertisements. Cars drive on whichever side of the road will get them to their destination the quickest as burnt orange sand kicks up dust clouds in their wake.
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Upon my arrival we traveled to Bipoa, about 90-minutes outside of Kumasi City. Cadbury’s Bicycle Factory was delivering 100 bikes (although they have 600 more for this community). We enjoyed a ceremony with local elders, the (acting) Chief of the tribal community, and very proud members of the Kuapa Kokoo fairtrade cocoa union.
You say “Kuapa!”, they say “Papa Paa!” a slogan which the women to shout with hands raised.
I will share the full details of the bike ceremony in a few weeks, but I can’t help but post a few photos right away.
After a speech during the ceremony there would be a musical interlude where the women would get up and dance to worship songs.
We also presented the Chief with school supplies for the children who are too young to receive bicycles.
After the bicycle presentation we then met with school children, had snacks in a local church, walked out to a cocoa farm, learned how the cocoa is processed, and talked to the Chief’s adviser privately.
There were some children at the bike ceremony, in their maroon and gold or blue and white uniforms, however most appeared around the community after school hours. They played soccer among the dried leaves of the cocoa farm or on a grassy patch near the road in front of the church.
It was clearly stated by the President of the Kuapa Kokoo union (who is voted in by the cocoa farmers) that every woman sitting there today was to make sure their child received an education. Even so, there are reminders everywhere about the evils of child labour.
From the Kuapa Kukoo Kuapa Kokoo website:
Kuapa Kokoo as a Fairtrade certified organisation takes this issue of child development and protection from exploitation by adults seriously and as such has invested heavily in programs that promote the wellbeing of children.
For example the cooperative has used a substantial part of its Fairtrade premiums to build schools in some communities it operates in to promote the development of children. Also the cooperative has together with other like-minded organisations sought funding to organize kids camps, webcasts, video conferences etc. to ensure that children in rural Ghana are abreast with the happenings in the world.
The Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, Kuapa Kokoo, and other organizations ensure that the children of these Ghanaian communities will be doing nothing more than playing among the cocoa leaves.
Warming up to our presence, their inquisitive faces turned to big bright smiles as soon as you waved your hand or offered them a high-five. Darius and his iPhone 4 were an instant hit.
It’s funny to think that someone in Vancouver who bought a fairtrade Cadbury Dairy Milk bar at 7-Eleven and went home and typed in the UPC code online could actually influence one of these children’s lives – but they most certainly did.
We’re heading to a community today that received bikes in 2009 so we’ll get to follow up on their cycling lives. They are in a more rural location so it will interesting to see the different impact.
Please note: Photos were taken with the permission of the community.
Disclosure: I have not been paid by Cadbury to participate in this trip. However, they have covered my accommodation and airfare to come along and document what I experience.