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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Garstang to Ghana - a fair trade
By Gill Dummigan
BBC Manchester

In Ghana, they say, they work on GMT, Ghana Maybe Time.
A
A Durbar, or celebration, was held to honour the visitors

So says Bruce Crowther, a vet based in Garstang, Lancashire, who has spent the past two years of his life organising and fund-raising for a once-in-a-lifetime trip there.

Not just him, seven people from all sorts of different walks of life in the town.

There is Gwyneth Bough, who runs an art shop there; former Lord Mayor, Councillor Gillian Lamb; teachers Chris Barlow and Richard Watts, and student James Cooper, along with Bruce's ten-year-old son Ben

Bruce is a man with a mission - to spread the word of Fair Trade.

Essentially, it asks people to pay a few pence extra at this end for commodities like coffee or tea and give the farmer at the other end of the world who is growing it a better deal.
Bruce Crowther
Garstang vet Bruce Crowther has spent two years organising the trip

Garstang was the UK's first fair trade town. More than 80% of its businesses sell the products.

A couple of years ago, it was twinned with New Koforidua, in Ghana, which grows cocoa beans for the fair trade market.

This was where Bruce, and his travelling companions were headed - a small village with no running water and intermittant electricity.

Or possibly not, if Ghana Airways had anything to do with it. After a tense 24 hours, the travel agents kindly bailed us all out and put us on a Wednesday charter flight instead. We were three days late, but we got there.

Man chopping cocoa bean in Ghana
The cocoa bean is the village's main source of income through Fair Trade
New Koforidua is in Central Ghana, surrounded by vibrant green forest.

There are no pavements or roads in the village itself, instead there's rich red earth running between the one storey adobe huts and the occasional bigger breezeblock house.

The people here are not rich by any stretch of the imagination - but they are by no means starving either.

And much of that is to do with the co-coa harvest. Most of the 1300 people who live there are farmers, and 80% farm co-coa.

Ghanaians making a playground
The villagers and visitors get to work on building a new playground
They sell it to a Ghanaian fair trade co-operative called Kuapa Kokoo.

The co-operative has around 45,000 farmers on its books in total - they pay an agreed price for the beans - higher than the commercial market - and also sponsor community projects like wells and village doctors.

Part of the plan was that James Cooper and Richard Watts would build a playground for the local children, with the help of the villagers.

Dozens of them turned up on the first day and set to work with gusto, measuring, digging, and wielding a chainsaw with possibly more enthusiasm than safety sense.

Drummers in New Koforidua
Drummers are a major part of Ghanaian life
The other participants, meanwhile, got to learn about village life through the various people they were staying with. Gwyneth was following Cecelia Mensah, a local hairdresser.

Chris went to look around the village schools with Patrick Nyankomago, a local school teacher.

The village chief, Nana Agyekum Sarpong the Second was, appropriately, hosting former Lord Mayor Gillian Lamb at his house for the duration.

The Chief was intensely grateful to Bruce and to the rest of the group for the efforts they were making to help the village, and to thank them, he arranged a Durbar, a huge festival to which all the villages around are invited.

Chief Nana Agyekum Sarpong II
The durbar lasted a whole afternoon and evening - dancing, singing and speeches.

The undisputed highlight, however, was when Bruce was officially made a junior chief, swathed in Ashanti cloth, shod in ceremonial gold sandals and hoisted onto dozens of shoulders to be saluted.

He told me afterwards it was the greatest honour he could imagine.

By the last day ties were made, plans for the future were well established and, just as importantly, the playground was ready and already swamped by enthusiastic children.

Just five days after they arrived, the Garstang group was off again, with six Ghanaians, their hosts in New Koforidua, to repay the hospitality with a week in Garstang.

Everyone said the experience had been one of the best of their lives. Bruce is adamant that he will carry his chiefly role from Garstang.

And I would bet that all will be looking out for fair trade products on the shelves in the future.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Ghana
15 Sep 04  |  Country profiles
North West: Fair trade
09 Sep 04  |  Politics Show


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