Daily archives: January 19, 2010

Cadbury’s Demise a Disaster for Ghana

Cadbury’s were using Fair Trade Cocoa for generations before the phrase was invented.

Cocoa in Ghana is a smallholding crop, with individual farmers having a hectare or two of mixed crops, including cocoa. It is not a plantation crop as it is in Brazil or Ivory Coast. That is why Ghanaian cocoa is of higher quality, and commands a premium on commodity markets. Cadbury’s chocolate in the UK uses 95% Ghanaian cocoa.

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, p184

A major reason that Ghana is the most stable and successful of Sub-Saharan African countries, is that traditional landholding patterns were not broken up by colonial usurpation. (White men ?” and their cattle ?” died like flies in the climate here. Wheat wilted).

Cocoa farming has for well over a century provided the backbone of a thriving agrarian society in Ghana. That widespread economic base has in turn enabled the continuation of traditional chieftaincy institutions and other indigenous forms of government.

Colonial population displacement is the root cause of many of Africa’s conflicts. In Kenya and Zimbabwe, conflicts we dismiss as tribal or as the result of African bad governance, in fact come down to the long term consequences of tribes displaced from their land by the British, and being forced to settle in other tribes’ territory.

If you don’t understand that, you don’t know Africa. The idea that the land was desolate before whites came, or that African forms of agriculture are unproductive, is nonsense which I tackle in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo.

Displacement to form vast cocoa estates has been part of the cause of conflict in Ivory Coast. The estates are attended with other evils ?” erosion and devastation of soil nutrients caused by monoculture, widespread use of child labour, and the conversion of independent small farmers to landless day labourers. These are but some of the ill effects.

The estates also produce low quality cocoa. It seems a truth in agriculture that over-intensive monoculture produces tasteless food. Most British people realize that Cadbury’s chocolate tastes better, but don’t know why. The answer is in the cocoa.

What Cadbury’s use in the UK is from independent Ghanaian smallholders, and is the equivalent of wines from an ancient small chateau or boutique Californian estate. They pay extra for it, and their willingness to pay extra has been a key part of keeping the Ghanaian small farmer going.

Kraft on the other hand use the mass produced estate cocoa; the equivalent of soulless and tasteless wine from multiple fields and huge stainless steel tanks. They source mostly in Brazil ?” the World’s most tasteless cocoa ?” and Ivory Coast. The bad taste in the mouth from the cocoa is both real and metaphorical. The estates in both countries make massive use of child labour.

It is a fact that Cadbury’s practices in dealing fairly with small African farmers dated back directly to the ethical precepts of their Quaker founders. I had occasion to prepare a report for the British government on the Ghanaian cocoa industry, in response to concerns about the use of child labour on Ivory Coast estates. I visited numerous Ghanaian farmers and Cadbury’s headquarters in the process, and have met Cadbury’s buyers in the field in West Africa over twenty years.

I have no doubt that in order to rack up the return on their vast investment, Kraft will switch to the cheap and nasty cocoa they normally use. This could be the worst thing to hit the Ghanaian rural economy since blackpod disease.

I sympathise entirely with those concerned about the effects in the UK of this takeover ?” just the latest manifestation of the fact that our society knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

But try to spare a thought for the ill effects in Africa too.

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Iraq Inquiry Elides Key Evidence

The most revealing moment of the Iraq Inquiry so far – probably the most revealing moment we will ever get – occurred yesterday in the evidence of Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff. A stark sun ray of truth burst through for just a few seconds before the Committee allowed it to be closed over by the fog of chummy complicity that has characterised these evidence sessions.

Asked whether he agreed with Sir Jeremy Greenstock that more time for diplomacy would have been helpful before the invasion started. Powell bluntly disagreed. As there were in fact no Iraqi WMD, more time would have weakened, not strengthened the case for war. That would have been unhelpful.


Powell had just sliced clean through the mound of lies constructed by himself, Alistair Campbell and Sir David Manning (you can tell when Manning lies – his lips move). After a huge pile of verbiage claimimg that the War was only about WMD, Powell had just admitted that they were absolutely bent on war whether there were WMD or not – indeed WMD were a problem, as the lack of them weakened the case for war.

This is where any person of average intelligence on the committee would have siezed on what Powell had just said. He had just admitted they wanted war irrespective of whether Saddam might have any WMDs. But the committee failed completely to pick up on the point. They moved swiftly on. They allowed the clouds of obfuscation to roll swiftly back in.

That is because the entire committee at abse agree with Powell. They accept the premiss that the war was a good thing. The composition of the committee, entirely from known pro-war advocates, is a national disgrace.


That nobody should even put to Powell the thought that perhaps, as Iraq had no WMD, the war was not neceassary, is as revealing of the Committee’s guilt as it is of Powell’s. Similarly, Powell was permitted several times to refer to 9/11 as leading to the war in Iraq, without anybody on the Committee ever putting to him the lack of connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

No matter how stubborn the truth may be, it is not beyond the committee and the media to ignore it.

Which helps account for the quite astonishing fact that 32% of the electorate apparently think that Tony Blair genuinely believed in Iraqi WMD. It is a great pity that we don’t have any breakdown on the other social and political attitudes of these extraordinary people.


I am going to spend the next few weeks sitting on the tube wondering which third of the passengers is dull enough to buy that.

Powell, meantime, appears to have taken lessons from that other war criminal, Radzvan Karadzic, on image makeover.

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I Almost Feel Loathe to Post

…when everyone has been having so much fun in comments without me. On Friday the connection, which had been almost unusable for three days, failed completely, and the phone lines too. Vodafone blame Friday evening’s storm, but the problem had started long before that.

Fascinating comment from Sembe:

At 3kbps, you should be using a simplifying proxy server like loband.org. For urgent communications, it might be best to set up a telnet service (using pine for email, lynx for web surfing).

Internet telephony services in Ghana are routed through the SAT-3/WASC cable, which is jointly owned by Ghana Telecom and 35 other telecoms. Local ISPs are assigned 2Mbps bandwidth, and supply it to subscribers at an average speed of 1kbps.

The common alternative is to use a VSAT satellite system, but this is more expensive and is rather clogged in West Africa. Additionally, MTN & Zain are now offering GSM or 3G mobile access.

Things are set to improve, though. Glo has just laid the Glo1 fibre optic cable from UK to Nigeria, which should be operational soon, and the Main One cable from Portugal should be installed by May 2010.

My emphasis.

The sad truth is that every advance in new technology leaves Africa falling further and further behind.

supply it to subscribers at an average speed of 1kbps

. Think about that.

We had a microwave link to a satellite provider which theoretically gave us dedicated 512 kbps – for about $4,000 a month. My UK connection is 20 times faster and 200 times cheaper – so costs 4,000 times less per kbps. In fact our “dedicated” capacity had been sold many times over by the satellite ISP, Zipnet, and speedtests usually showed about 30kbps. Corrked ISPs are part of the whole complex problem

Last night the phone lines came back and I rushed down to post something when the electricity went off. This had happened so often in the last few days that the generator had run out of diesel, while a UPS only survives a few months coping with a dozen outages a day – and that is with a $10,000 voltage stabiliser on the house. [This was written yesterday and attempts throughout the day to post it failed. So I got up at 6am this morning to do it].

All this is in “normal” circumstances. Imagine the logistic nightmare facing the aid agencies in Haiti, with the same kind of level of base infrastructure, and then most of that destroyed by an earthquake.

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