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Go Global Go Ghana: Garstang Fairtrade Town

Garstang The World's First Fairtrade Town

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Go Global Go Ghana

On August 5th 2001 the  Go Global team returned from their 3 weeks researching Fairtrade, the  Atlantic Slave Trade and  Child Labour in Ghana. The team was made up of seven adults; Bruce Crowther (Garstang Oxfam Group), Claire Piela (Drama Director), Ella Wood, Mick Dillon, Neil Tricket ("On the Line" applicant), Richard Whyman ( Lancashire County Council Youth & Community Services Leader) and Sue Piela, together with 5 youngsters; Amy Williams, Lee Bradshaw, Mel Yates, Peter Lane and Sally Piela. While in Ghana the Go Global team  were joined by Martine Miel (Antislavery International) and three youngsters from London; Charlotte McDonald, Christine Doran and Esther Adamosu.

Central to the project was the performance of 'Hidden Brutality' the play (on the three issues of Fairtrade, Atlantic Slave Trade and Child Labour) put together by the young theatrical group 'Mission'. This was performed in front of 2, 800 pupils of the State Experimental Basic Schools in Kumasi. Students of the schools entertained their guests with a full days programme of African singing, drumming and dancing culminating in their own performance of a play on the Atlantic Slave Trade, as seen through Ghanaian eyes. The days entertainments sealed the link made between Garstang High school and the State Experimental Basic schools in Kumasi.

Essentially the visit was divided into three parts. The first few days was spent with the charity Children in Need in the capital Accra, the second part visiting the old slave forts of Elmina and Cape Coast castle and finally going to Kumasi to look at the production of cocoa and Fair Trade. The group also visited the banana plantation run by the Volta Region Estates limited (V.R.E.L)  where the Oke  fairtrade bananas, available in the UK, are grown.

Children in Need, Accra

Samuel and family with members of the Go Global team at the Children in Need CentreChildren in Need is a centre run by Ken and Tina Amoah that works to "free" children working in the nearby stone quarries and sending them to school. There were 39 children at the centre at the time of the visit. In the stone quarries children as young as five work breaking stones to make gravel to be used in concrete for construction. They work from 6am to 6pm often 6, or even 7, days a week. The work is hard and dangerous, injuries are common including the loss of fingers. For this work the children are paid between 1,000 and 2, 000 cedis per day, equivalent to between 10 and 20 pence per day.

The children at the centre entertained the UK students with singing, dancing and drama productions depicting their life before joining Children in Need. Their performances were very powerful and showed a total understanding of their rights as children. What was perhaps most inspiring was the fact that many of the children had great ambitions now that they are receiving an education. Samuel (10 years old at the time of visiting) for example, wanted to be a Veterinary Surgeon and providing he works hard he has now every chance of fulfilling his aim. Samuel's mother Janet, who also lives at the centre, came originally from the rural Volta region of Ghana. Her parents were farmers who could not afford to give Janet an education. Janet finally went to Accra looking for work where she ended up in the stone quarry. When asked if these problems would have arisen had she received an education she was quite definite that they would not. Samuel's older sister Lucy works at the Children in Need centre as a seamstress. Janet came to the centre in 1999, at that time she was found working in the stone quarry with Samuel and his younger brother Derek who then was only 6 months old.

Slave CellSlave Forts, Cape Coast and Elmina

Visiting the slave forts allowed the students to see for themselves the true horror and brutality of the Atlantic Slave Trade. They visited Cape Coast castle and the fort at Elmina. Cape Coast was a fort used by the British to trade in slaves whereas Elmina, the oldest fort in Ghana, was used by the Portuguese and Dutch. Elmina was later captured by the British but never used by them for the notorious trade in slaves. In both forts the Europeans had deliberately chosen to build their churches above the dungeons where the slaves were so inhumanely kept. In Cape Coast castle the male slave dungeon was built upon the shrine to the old Gods worshipped by the native Africans.  This demonstrated how the Europeans not only used religion to justify the trading in humans but also used it as a symbol of superiority.

Cocoa farming around Kumasi

In Kumasi the group was hosted by the cocoa farming cooperative Kuapa Kokoo ('Good Cocoa Farmer' in Twi, the local Ashanti language). Kuapa Kokoo along with Twin Trading and the Body Shop own the Day Chocolate Company that produce the fairtrade chocolate Divine and the Dubble bar. The students were taken to the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farming community of New Koforidua. This is a town with a population of about 3,000 that lies on the Kumasi to Accra road. New Koforidua has since been twinned with the Fairtrade Town of Garstang. The students were shown how cocoa is grown and processed to the cocoa beans sold to the European markets for chocolate produce making. Due to the present relatively small demand for fairtrade chocolate only 2% of Kuapa's cocoa can be sold as fairtrade, but the fairtrade premium gained is distributed between all the farmers that sell to Kuapa. These dividends from the sale of fairtrade cocoa are used, for example, to help provide people in the community with drinking water, to help towards the building of schools and to provide income-generating activities. Only when the demand for fairtrade chocolate increases can Kuapa sell more of their beans as fairtrade, resulting in far greater benefits to all their farmers. Ultimately, of course, only the consumer has the power to change this.

Cocoa Beans

Cocoa beans left to dry at the Kuapa Kokoo Community of New Koforidua

While in Kumasi the link between Garstang High School and the State Experimental Basic Schools was sealed as well as establishing a new link between Myerscough Agricultural College, just outside Garstang, and Kwadaso Agricultural College outside Kumasi. While talking with farmers and staff at Kwadaso College it was remarkable how many of the problems they expressed bore a close relation to the problems expressed by farmers in the UK. “Why are we always asked to produce cheap cocoa in large quantities which then forces the price down further? Is quality and method of production not important to them (the buyers)?” remarked one staff member. See Farmers Link.

The writer believes that many of the injustices of the present trading system in Africa are a consequence of the slave trade of old. It is easy to see now the injustices of the Atlantic slave trade but this was certainly masked at the time. The slave trade abolitionists stated that it was immoral for people to suffer to provide us in the UK with luxuries like tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate at a cheap price. That same injustice applies today but again it is hidden from the people of today. Andrews Addoquaye Tagoe (Projects Co-ordinating Officer for the General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana) made the following remark while the group was in Ghana. "After Independence we got what we wanted but did it change our economic status? After slavery are we better off now than in those days? We have stopped our slave masters from ruling us but all we have gained is our dignity. You (in the West) get good food to eat, entertainment and a good living and the suffering here (in Ghana) is a legacy of the slave trade. It has left a servant / master relationship due to making blacks depend on whites. People think the solution must come from that angle. We must wash ourselves, change our way of thinking. Now that we have the net we can go fishing and catch the fish for ourselves."

Racism is also a legacy of the slave trade. When asked if he had a message for the racist people back home Andrews replied "tell them they should travel a little. The world is a global village, there is no inferior person and no better person. Everybody created by God is as important as God wants him to be. So they should open their eyes, we love them and we will always co exist with them."

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