The alarm went at 5.20; a shock to the system! We had breakfast at 6.30, then hit the road. I say ‘road’ but the further we travelled north, the les like a road it became and the more it resembled a footpath. The vegetation closed in on both sides, gras started sprouting in the middle and the potholes got even bigger. At times we passed small oil palm plantations and then suddenly we came out of the undergrowth and laid out before us was a Palm plantation stretching away into the distance. Row after row of palms, the only trees visible confined to gullies or steep slopes. The palms then gave way to serried ranks of rubber trees. All these must have been planted in the last couple of years by some large agri-company. Then, thankfully, the vegetation closed in again and the road resembled a path once more.
After about an hour we came to a T junction and had to ask the way. We turned onto a wide dirt road, made treacherous by the recent rains. Deep muddy gullies formed the sides of the road so most vehicles drove in the middle. Obviously this created ‘challenges’ when two vehicles converged, both in the middle. I have to say that Dominic, our driver, seemed to win in most cases, even though some decisions were left rather late!
We were now in gold country and signs for gold dealers appeared in the towns we passed through. Other signs pointed to mines or gave the times when blasting was likely to occur. We arrived in New Koforidua, the first Fairtrade producer town in the world 3.5 hours after leaving Asuom. We pulled off the road and bumped over a rough track to the Cooperative House. There we met some local farmers all members of the local co-op, including the Treasurer, Patricia, the President, Emmanuel and Farida, the Vice President. We all had to introduce ourselves to the group and tell them why we were there.
In 2007 Garstang partnered Koforidua and they began taki ng a real interest in Fairtrade activities. In 2011 Koforidua became the first FT producer town in Ghana and indeed the world. It is also linked toA Japanese FT town in a triangular partnership which one of the group likened to the old triangular slave trade, but for good not evil. They are now looking at new ways forward to raise funding for the community, including :
1. Plantation tourism – bringing visitors to home stay in the community. This would mean additional revenue and more jobs for people as guides and hosts. Their tag line would be ‘From bean to bar’.
2. A vast craft market in August of each year which may bring in people from other parts of the world as well as locals.
The farmers told us that the average farm size was about 3 acres. They said that in the past, before FT they were often cheated by buyers and their payments were delayed. Now it is much fairer. An extension officer trains them in hope to run a good farm and they have increased yields.
However they are noticing the effects of climate change.mthere have been two very dry years and the sun has scorched the cocoa trees.
We said our goodbyes after a group photo in front of the House and then we headed on to Kumasi. We stopped at a very smart hotel for lunch, which include ice cream for dessert – luxury! Kumasi was about another hour and so we arrived quite early in the afternoon. Our hotel looked attractive on the outside, but we knew that was no guarantee of what was behind the mirror glassed doors. However Christine and I were shown into a palatial suite with a large entrance lobby and a massive bedroom with a gigantic bed. We are so far away from each other it is easier to text rather than shout across its snowy sheets. O.K. I exaggerate, but not by much. The bathroom is equally large and for some reason has a serving hatch between it and the bedroom. Strange. There is a bath, a toilet and a wash basin, all in working order of sorts, and acres of tiled floor where one can practise yoga, go for a run, learn to waltz, hold a FT Meeting, or invite in a small orchestra to serenade your while you wallow in the bath.
Of course there are still sockets that leave the wall at the slightest provocation and the shower has no fittings, a couple of the lights don’t work and the toilet roll holder has disappeared, but hey this is definitely an improvement on our last hotel. There is even a pool.
We decided to go for a walk , but again the heavens opened and an even more violent storm than yesterday ensued. When we finally did get out we walked about a mile along a very busy road, being tooted at by taxis desperate for our business. Once back We relaxed, swam and slept and went for dinner in the restaurant at 7.00. This clearly put the kitchen in to a start of panic, even though they had been warned beforehand. A lot of things were ‘off’ so as veggies we were left with a choice of salad or rice or noodles and vegetables. We settled fo rice and vegetables. Over an hour later our order finally arrived. Others waited longer. We tentatively asked for dessert, but apparently the chef had gone home by then. It was 9.00 by then and the restaurant was due to close at 10.00 , so presumably frightened by the prospect of serving 11 portions of ice cream he had fled tthe premises.
Another early night then as tomorrow we leave at 7.00 again. Breakfast is at 6.30 …..assuming they can find the chef!