In November 2011, Divine Chocolate USA was thrilled to host two women leaders from Kuapa Kokoo: Fatima Ali and Felicia Mensah.
At the time of their visit, Fatima Ali was a farmer with 5 acres of land in the Western Region of Ghana. At the age of 30, she was the youngest member of the National Executive Council of Kuapa Kokoo, the central leadership body of the farmers’ organization. She served as the National Secretary and is the Chair of the Kuapa Kokoo Trust, which determines how the premiums from Fair Trade are used each year. She is the proud mother of a little boy, and provides extensive support to her father and brothers.
At the time of her visit, Felicia Mensah was a farmer with 8 acres of land in the Western Region of Ghana. She was 50 years old and served as an executive member of her village society. She was also the first woman President of her district, representing over 1,000 farmers. Felicia has been a member of Kuapa Kokoo since the late 1990s and has seen it grow -- not only in numbers but in the level of women’s participation. She is now a leading voice for women’s empowerment in the cooperative. She is the proud mother of three children, all of whom are working or finishing up their studies.
Fatima and Felicia braved the chilly autumn weather to travel through Washington, D.C. and New York City, sharing the incredible story of cocoa farmers changing the face of the chocolate industry. Read some of the highlights from their trip below:
- Visited the World Bank -- they participated in a great conversation on cocoa sustainability in Ghana. They explained N’nobua, a community tradition that means “if you help me, I will help you.” As they described it, during the cocoa harvest, friends and neighbors help one another gather the cocoa pods and break them open for fermentation. During that time, farmers share best practices and inform one another of problems with productivity or pests. Kuapa Kokoo uses this time as an opportunity for extension officers to provide vital training to farmers to improve yields and protect against any potential diseases. This grassroots outreach strategy has had a tremendous impact on the sustainability of cocoa farms within Kuapa Kokoo.
- Met with the US Department of Labor -- they discussed their pioneering project with the ILO to combat the worst forms of child labor.
- Spoke at a launch event for the UN’s International Year of Cooperatives
- Presented at the Embassy of Ghana -- representatives congratulated them on their hard work and leadership in the cocoa sector.
New York City
- Met with students of New York University & members of the New York City Fair Trade Coalition -- As NYU has a campus in Ghana, many of the students had visited Kuapa Kokoo in the past and were eager to learn more about the co-operative’s latest projects. Fatima told them about investments in three new schools and projects to fight child labor, while Felicia discussed microcredit initiatives for women.