Mary Adu Kumi may have lost her sense of time, but not her sense of purpose.
Bouncing from Ghana to Madison, Honolulu and Fort Collins on a national speaking tour, she describes her work on the Kuapa Kokoo Cocoa Fair Trade Cooperative with pride and excitement.
Africa and Latin America are suffering a devastating economic crisis marked by unfair and inconsistent market prices and inflated interest rates, which forces small farmers off their land and causes child and indentured labor, Kumi said.
“Prices are not stable. It is not the producer who is dictating the price,” Kumi said. “It is the buyer who is dictating the price. The farmer is vulnerable because he is not as educated.”
The Kuapa Kokoo Cocoa Fair Trade Cooperative creates an alternate economic way of life for members based on fair trade that guarantees a fair and stable price to producers and forbids child labor.
When asked what distinguishes fair trade from other trade arrangements, Kumi replied, “ask a farmer in Ghana and they will say fair trade means I have good drinking water, or fair trade means I have a school for my children.”
Kumi spoke twice in Fort Collins on Tuesday. She addressed a macroeconomics class at Front Range Community College and then she spoke at a CSU event sponsored by Global Exchange and Finding Racial and Economic Equality.
“We want to make some noise so people will hear us,” Kumi said. “Fair trade is all over the (United Kingdom), but America is silent.”
Cocoa, which is used to make chocolate, is Ghana’s main agricultural export. Cocoa was introduced to Ghana in 1670 by the British and is native to Brazil.
The cocoa produced at the Kuapa Kokoo Co-op is used to make Divine chocolate bars.
Farmers who desired increased participation in the market formed Kuapa Kokoo Co-op in 1993. It is made up of five groups: a farmer’s union, a commercial wing, a credit union, a farmer’s trust and the Day Chocolate Company, located in London. The Co-op owns one-third of the Day Chocolate Company’s shares. Kuapa Kokoo has over 36,000 members.
Kuapa Kokoo Co-op aims to increase the income, standard of living and to empower cocoa farmers.
Kuapa Kokoo Co-op provides educational programs that cover functional literacy, reproductive health, food and nutrition, agro-forestry practices, networking with other like-minded organizations and civic education.
Civic education is important because many farmers are disconnected from towns and do not know their rights and responsibilities, Kumi said.
Farmer’s children benefit from an exchange student program that helps to link them with children of the UK and abroad.
When asked if she had children Kumi’s face tilted back in a big smile. Three teenagers, she said. They are 15, 17 and 19 years old and are all looking forward to fulfilling a university education.
Fair trade has made significant progress in women’s participation in public and commercial affairs at the Kuapa Kokoo Co-op. Equal representation of men and women in the Co-op Area Councils and the National Executive Council is mandated. Training for women’s projects like soap-making generates revenue for families during the off-season of cocoa production.
Fair trade Divine chocolate bars can be purchased at Ten Thousand Villages, 113 Old Town Square in Fort Collins, or ordered online at www.kuapakokoo.com.
“If you cannot eat chocolate, give one to someone for a gift and you will be lifting up a farmer,” Kumi said.