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    Fairtrade chocolate

    Tuesday, 27 February 2018  |  Joanna

    Fairtrade premiums are paid to all Fairtrade farming communities. The idea of the premium is that farmers are collectively responsible for deciding which community projects the premiums are used to support. One of the best ways to see the value of Fairtrade over other ethical trading systems is to look at the projects which the premiums support. I'll be looking specifically at the Fairtrade premiums paid to members of the Kuapa Kokoo chocolate cooperative in Ghana, but the kind of things these chocolate farmers are choosing to spend their premiums on are similar to those in coffee and tea farmers across Africa. Thanks to Divine chocolate for the photos and stories.

    There are three key areas where the premiums are used: education, healthcare and capacity building.

    Kuapa Kokoo has been selling Fairtrade cocoa since 1993 and now there are over 85,000 farmers involved in the cooperative. Over the past 25 years premiums have been used to build schools, train and pay staff, buy materials, uniforms and bicycles for the children to use.

    But it isn't just children who are educated using the money from Fairtrade premiums. Adult literacy and numeracy classes allow farmers and their families to catch up with the education they may have missed earlier in their lives. Education is proven to be one of the best ways to tackle poverty, it empowers both women and men and helps them play an important part in the decision making process of the cooperative.

    Clean water is vitally important for health and too many people across the developing world do not have access to clean water and sanitation. Communities can choose to install a tap, saving the back-breaking labour (mainly done by women) of walking many miles to find water, and ensuring the water is clean and sanitary. In turn this access to clean water improves maternal health reducing the possibility of maternal and foetal death in childbirth. Other health projects include building clinics, training and paying nurses and providing transport for district nurses to travel to rural areas.

    Capacity Building is one of the Ten Principles of Fair Trade and it is vital for farmers to take the opportunity to increase their ability to make money by growing, making and selling other products. These ladies are learning to screen print traditional Ghanaian fabrics. Around 80% of all the clothing donated to UK charity shops ends up in the developing world and especially in West Africa this has undermined the local textile industry. Training cocoa farmers and their families to make clothes for themselves or to sell is a way to preserve these traditional skills.

    Other ways the premiums are used to increase capacity include: buying better quality tools, seeds and sharing ideas for increasing the yield from existing crops. Even buying radios for members of the community can have a great impact. A dedicated radio broadcast links farmers in distant communities and helps them share ideas and best practice as well as helping community members feel connected together. This is much the same as the original idea of the BBC radio soap The Archers. 

    Fairtrade changes lives.