After my first blog post of the year which was about how the election results in Uganda had set new dynamics in the countries delicate situation. Lindsay Chiswe from Zimbabwe, whom I know through Afrobloggers introduced me to Adelaide A’asante from Africaniwa. They asked me to join an online event to speak on the election alongside a gentleman from West of Uganda.
Afticaniwa is a product birthed during the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s a community of passionate lovers of photos and especially about Africa. If you attend their online monthly meeting you are referred to as tribesman or tribeswoman. I decided to become a tribesman forever after my first meet. The name Africaniwa is inspired by the word ahweh3niwa. Twi word, a widely spoken language by the Akans in Ghana, which means lenses. The event is a photo exhibition and since a photo says a thousand words, the photos are the center of the discussion as stories about them are explored by ordinary people.
For February the event was titled “Chocolate has a Name” and it was about Cocoa farmers in Ghana and sustainability. When they put out a poster on social media to inform the public about the event I honestly thought about the worst. In the past, I gave up on buying chocolate after revelations of child labor came to light along the supply chain process. I have since changed my Boycott norms however much it’s painful to buy petroleum products from shell one of Africa’s polluters. I do consume chocolate with a lot of thoughts and I was eager to attend Africaniwa in February.
Those at Africaniwa treasure the African adage that says “If you don’t tell your story, someone else would and be sure they might not tell it right” and it’s this very principle that most African content creators follow. Africaniwa uses stories and shared experiences from these images to restore African humanity and make the tribesmen to realize how much connected we are as a people. When people are forgotten their humanity is lost and there is no better way to put this than through storytelling. They also believe that the human story should be central to our understanding the world. Africaniwa is pro-social cohesion and the stories shared seek unity in diversity. The stories go Beyond the color of the skin and it’s open to everyone to join in. The whole Africaniwa project seeks unity in diversity given the kind of world we find ourselves in today.
When I signed up for the event on Zoom, a lady was speaking a language I could not understand and she had a translator. Africaniwa had brought us a real Cocoa farmer to tell her story, it was not a digital native or that city blogger to tell a villagers story. That is how natural these photo exhibitions are, she was representing all 1.6 million cocoa farmers that make $ 3.25 billion for Ghana annually. She was your typical farmer from the lowest of the social order but feeds the world. Before attending the event a day before I had just watched a News Story on NTV Uganda of a cocoa farmer who had never seen chocolate before. As she spoke Adelaide A’asante asked her questions through a translator and at some point there was a communication challenge that another tribesman who spoke the language solved by chipping in.
I was attending the event passively because it was a Friday night and because of the Time Zone, it was already late in East Africa. I got blown away by Bruce Crowther MBE‘s discourse during the event. He kicked off his part by putting this across. “It is simply immoral that people should be allowed to suffer in order to provide us with luxuries such as tea, coffee and sugar at a cheap price” for the slave trade abolitionists Circa 1790. Bruce said it is sad that message is still relevant today because there people in places like Ghana that grow cocoa but have no access to clean water and it is immoral and a form of slave trade. He once, had a life’s time encounter where upon asking a farmer who had just hoarded his cocoa beans in anticipation of a better market price to the detriment of his hungry family, why don’t you just eat what you own…cocoa beans. The farmer answered, its not mine to eat because we were growing them for the British.” It moved him to do a lot to ensure Africans gained from selling their beans . It is his work thereafter to ensure a fairer trade system in which absence could be compared to slave trade that got him a title from the queen. That part of the story was not mentioned during the event. He started and an organization called fair Trade Town Movement and he is a fair Trade activist.
Bruce’s project child started in Garstang in April 2000 in his home town and had since then moved to over 1,500 Fair Trade Towns in 25 countries worldwide, including London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Brussels, Copenhagen, Oslo, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Vancouver and Wellington in New Zealand have all followed in Garstang’s footsteps. His work to the Cocoa farmers didn’t go unnoticed because he was made a Sub-Chief in New Koforidua in the Ashanti region of Ghana. When he was asked if his work would materialize to finally changing the lives of farmers one day. He replied by saying he knew apartheid in South Africa would end someday but he was not sure he would see it in his lifetime…,after he said that I believe in humanity even more. I personally blame most of the issues that impoverished people face on the form that capitalism is taking. And here was someone who had dedicated his all life to reforming the system to work for everyone. A vet by training championing fair trade and with a lot of hope that farmers one day will rise from poverty.
After the photo slide for the exhibition was run a gentleman called Moro took over. The photos were about COCOA 360 an organization started by Shadrack Frimpong. The images include plantation, the harvesting, and the application of pesticides. There were schoolgirls and a Health Center which at first didn’t make sense because this was about Cocoa farming and chocolate. It was not until the story was told that I realized that some Africans had figured out how to make the system work for them by making cocoa farming sustainable for a whole community.
COCOA 360 had figured out how to tap into the multi-million dollar industry for the betterment of the community. The non-profit organization operates a community run cocoa farm that goes on to fund a community health facility and a tuition-free girls school in Tarkwa Breman. This is a fit that some governments have failed to master or claim it’s impossible to achieve. If you happen to read more about Shadrack Frimpong, his story is related to those from Nigeria, similar to those from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania but something makes this different. Frimpong didn’t decide to build a house for his parents, buy a car or work on the road in his village. He started a project that would be sustainable for the community.
Thanks to Africaniwa I discovered this story and I made up my mind at the end of the event to share it with those that read my blog. There are farmers all over Africa that don’t know what running water is and have never seen electricity. Funny thing they support whatever we call economies because food is the best vaccine for humanity since hunger can be a very bad pandemic if it took root in any society.
Thanks to the Africaniwa February event I can use what I heard to achieve myriad things including writing this blog. Many African who read are scared of the second empire or the new form of economic colonialism, its endeavors like Fair Trade Town Movements that will enable the poor to negotiate better as policymakers will play their roles.
On this particular exhibition, Africaniwa is encouraging the use of the #Chocolatehasaname in The bid to protect cocoa farmers from corporate exploitation.
Coming soon on the blog a follow-up piece about the February feature that I posted earlier titles “AfCFTC and the future of Africa on the Watch” you can do well to checks it out before the next one on Trade and geopolitics of Africa.