My Trip to ECHOES Communities in Ghana
Entry: Peter Higgins, Purdy’s Chocolate
I recently came back from my first trip to Africa in late October, and Wow, what an experience! I visited World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) ECHOES communities, and to see the challenges and the encouraging things that are happening to support the livelihoods of the cocoa growing communities was eye-opening. The purpose of our visit was two-fold for Purdy's: 1) To further educate ourselves on the agriculture of cocoa; 2) To see the development work in ECHOES communities, which is supported by Purdy's.
The development work was inspiring. It starts with the team of people we met who work with WCF and Winrock. Matilda was our main guide during our visits to the communities. Given her background of growing up on a cocoa farm as a young girl, and having grown up being told that education was not a priority for her, the messages she brought forward were so meaningful and significant. She provided an example of the importance of education to children, single mothers and cocoa farmers to the communities she is involved with.
One stirring moment was at a meeting in a community where a young girl was brave enough to speak up. This young girl in her early teens was distressed that her father was telling her education was not important to her future and that he would not help with funding her school and uniform for school. Matilda knew where she was coming from given her own background. Although I couldn't understand specifically as Matilda talked in her native language what I could "interpret" nonetheless was an inspirational moment where Matilda was telling this young lady "it was not her father's future - this is about her future and her education must be where it starts".
I am certain this is but one small example of the challenge and subsequently the opportunities that are happening daily through Matilda and her team's efforts in these communities. We also heard stories from young farmers who had education through WCF ECHOES shadow teachers, demonstration farms and other ECHOES education programs. We heard stories from single mothers who had received grants through the ECHOES program. One after another each woman very proudly stood up and talked about how they received education about their businesses and used this grant money to further their business success and ultimately help the living conditions and education for themselves and their families. We saw many examples that by learning basic agriculture practices, cocoa farmers had conservatively doubled the yield of their farms and their incomes.
In addition to Matilda, the team of Laura (WCF), Bernice (Winrock), Abraham (Winrock), MacGeorge (World Education), and Gideon (World Education) were all inspiring people that deeply cared about improving the livelihoods of the cocoa growing communities. We left feeling confident in the positive work that is being done by these teams and further inspired to continue the support of these development programs. We feel confident that in helping to fund these programs, we are building stronger partnerships with the farming communities and look forward to sharing this with our Purdy's staff team and customers.
Peter Higgins is the Chief Operating Officer at Purdy's Chocolates. Peter has an Agriculture degree specializing in Food Science and now specializes in the Science of Chocolate having worked with Purdy's since 1998. Peter leads the direction for Purdy's, a Chocolatier that was started in Vancouver in 1907. Today Purdy's has 60 Chocolate Shops across Canada.
Pictured left to right: Matilda Broni, Peter Higgins, Karen Flavelle
Pictured left to right: Karen Flavelle, Peter Higgins
Pictured: Peter Higgins with schoolchildren in Sefwi Wiawso area.