Comfort In Leicester
When I met Comfort Komeah she was about to retire as a primary school teacher. She was in her early 60s but had the look and energy of someone much younger. Comfort visited Leicester during Fairtrade Fortnight about 10 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten the experience. We visited schools, business’ and community groups and she talked about her life as a Fairtrade farmer.
She told me how she teaches her kindergarten class of 60 students in the mornings and works on her farm in the afternoons. Comfort is a Ghanaian Cocoa farmer, a member of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Co-operative. (Kuapa Kokoo means Good Farmer) The co-op holds a 44% share in the British and American chocolate company Divine Chocolate*. happily talked about the hard work of cocoa farming and bragged about the top quality cocoa she produced. She said that Ghanian cocoa is the best but that her co-op produces ‘the best of the best’ . In her language, Twi ,that is ‘Papapaa’ which is also Kuapa Kokoo’s motto! Comfort is an inspiring woman confident in her abilities and proud of Kuapa Kokoo.
Women Farmers in Ghana
However quality cocoa isn’t what makes her most proud. She got the most animated and excited when talking about the co-ops business structure. (I know – not what you’d usually consider exciting!) However it is in part that very structure that has empowered the women in her male dominated society. The co-op has grown over the years to now have over 100,000 members. They are divided into village committees. The committees are democratically elected by the village members and have to have male and female members. Each year 2 committee members attend the big annual co-op meeting and yes, you guessed it, they have to be a man and a woman. The very structure of the co-op has given the women an equal voice with the men. But that’s not enough they have committed to do more to empowerment of women.
Over the years the co-op have used money from the Fairtrade Premium on women’s empowerment initiatives. Things like literacy and numeracy classes. When a farmer learns to write her name she is instantly able to sign for things, record transactions, and able to negotiate the world around her. Comfort gets involved, she loves teaching the women of Kuapa Kokoo. They teach valuable skills to improve faming methods so the women have the ability to look after their family better and earn more money.
Comfort the Role Model
What a fantastic role model Comfort has been. As she says,
“If you had told me 12 years ago that one day I wold hold of of the most senior positions in Kuapa I would have laughed! But here I am, the Secretary of the National Executive. What a great achievement and example for women.”
Now a new generation of young women farmers are being given the skills and confidence to become leaders.
“As soon as I joined (Kuapa Koko) I was trained to improve my farming skills – how to produce pa pa paa cocoa and to improve my yields. As a result I have doubled my yield and can now produce 40 sacks of cocoa from my 6 acre farm, whereas before it was 20. Then I put myself up for election. The other farmers could see I was well educated and was good with figures, and they trusted me, a young woman, to be a good Recorder.’
Mavis Adu Gyamfi from Sefwi-Akotombra Society
*Divine Chocolate’s mission is to create a world where farmers can thrive and prosper. At Divine, they aren’t just proud that all their range is Fairtrade, but also proud to be co-owned by Kuapa Kokoo. Kuapa Kokoo is the cocoa cooperative in Ghana who grow the cocoa in Divine Chocolate.
Kuapa Kokoo farmers receive the Fairtrade premium, and they also receive a share of the profits they help to create. That means that every bar of Divine Chocolate directly improves the lives of farmers.
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.