Saturday, January 28, 2006

We're up!

The website for Project Hope and Fairness went online yesterday evening!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Delivering Scales to Ivorian Farmers: Is this a Legitimate Rx?


The Ivorian cocoa farmer is poorer now than the hey-days of the 60s and 70s, when cocoa prices were high, the French government was making up for Ivorian deficits, and Ivorians were encouraged to grab land, cut down forests and plant, plant, plant. Today, Ivory Coast is the world’s largest grower of cocoa (43%) the fourth largest grower of coffee, and a major producer of palm oil for the European market. Seventy-five percent of the cocoa beans used to make American chocolate were harvested in Ivory Coast.

In Ivory Coast’s hey-day, large-scale cocoa farmers made enough money to send their children to universities and small-scale farmers could at the very least provide them with a few years of elementary school. Chocolate confections in Europe and the United States were affordable for everyone. Since those days, various events have driven down the price of cocoa or have siphoned away profits from the farmer, leading to their progressive impoverishment. Meanwhile, Europeans and Americans continue to enjoy affordable chocolate confections. The economic situation of the cocoa farmer has become so dire that some farmers are quitting the business and their children are moving to cities. Other farmers have resorted to using child slave labor because they cannot afford to pay wages, a situation that was described in a series of videos and articles by members of the British press in 2000. This situation was to have been addressed by the Harkin-Engel Protocol (see http://www.globalexchange.org/update/press/3227.html), a system of certification to assure American and European consumers that their chocolate does not contain cocoa beans that involve any of a list of child labor abuses. The main chocolate manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic formed organizations to address the problems, but after 5 years, little progress has been made, and the protocol was recently granted a three-year extension.

If you have been to Ivory Coast and you have tromped through the cocoa farms, talking to farmers, middlemen, and buyers, learning each perspective, you quickly realize that the protocol is probably not going to work. At least, it won’t help the farmer. It might assuage a few guilty consciences in North America and Europe. The country is just too big, there are too many farmers, too many children getting no education, and too much governmental chaos. You begin to suspect that the chocolate industry, especially the American companies Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, are playing for time and are hedging their bets by encouraging Vietnam and Indonesia to cut down their forests and plant cocoa. Supporting this hypothesis is the donations area of the World Cocoa Foundation’s web site (http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/About/donate.asp); in it, suggestions are made about donating money to help Vietnam and Indonesia, while no mention is made of Ivory Coast, even though that is where the poverty and labor problems are most severe and Ivory Coast is, by far, the world’s largest producer of cocoa.

Meanwhile, the Ivorian cocoa farmer continues to suffer. Today, out of a recommended 750 CFA FOB price for fermented dried cocoa, 308 CFA go to the government in taxes. In the early 90s, as French governmental support dwindled, world cocoa prices dropped, and Ivory Coast’s loans became difficult to repay, the World Bank requested--in exchange for forgiving payments--that the Ivorian government disband its Caisse de Stabilization, a fund used to ensure that farmers receive a consistent price for their cocoa despite cocoa price or currency fluctuations. Historically, the World Bank has euphemistically referred to such programs as structured adjustment. Ironically, the World Bank’s economists eat and dine well while pushing for “transparency” and “free trade”, using programs that in the name of bringing a country’s economy in line with international norms, cut the little people to the quick, depriving them of a living wage with which they can educate their children.

Besides the World Bank, which is owned and operated by the United States, American and European governments are guilty of looking after the interests of American and European farmers to the exclusion of Third World farmers, who are no longer able to compete on the world market. American and European governments, which piously tout free trade, engage in the crassest forms of anti-competitive dumping. The name of the game is "subsidy," and there are numerous examples of it. Just picking one country that has suffered from decisions made in Washington and Brussels: Mali. Located just to the north of Ivory Coast, its farmers grow cotton and produce milk. However, with the world price of cotton depressed by American subsidies ($4 billion annually), the Malian farmers can no longer sell their cotton competitively. The same is true of milk. Every French cow is subsidized at the rate of $2 per day, and the French government, ever mindful of the welfare of its former colonies, dumps powdered milk in Mali, forcing farmers out of business. The result, in Mali, one of the 5 poorest countries in the world, is a migration of children south to the cocoa fields of Ivory coast, where those children pick the cocoa beans for American and European chocolate. One could argue, credibly, that this is a sort of neo-slave triangle. Or perhaps parallelogram.

As with any political or economic situation, the causes and solutions are complex. The fault does not solely rest with the Bank or with Western governments. There are other reasons for the poverty of the cocoa farmer. In the early 1980s, fires induced by global warming caused the burning of vast tracts of forest in West Africa. Many farmers lost their plantings and were no longer able to afford to purchase vehicles to move their agricultural products to market. In the same period of time, the immigration of Lebanese from war-torn Beirut strengthened the traitant system, whereby Lebanese families purchased warehouses and formed relationships with the large cocoa buyers, acting as middlemen between buyers and farmers. The Lebanese moved their families into large towns in the cocoa-growing regions--e.g., Daloa and Gagnoa. However, they did not have black skins nor were they familiar with local customs, village life, etc. so another layer of middlemen formed--the pisteurs.

An important factor in personal and social relations in West Africa is one's racial and cultural origin. As in so many other parts of the world, a white skin grants one certain status and responsibility. White skin also sets one apart and acts as a barrier. Even Africans of different tribes and villages differentiate themselves. A Burkinabe person might marry a Baole, but they often have to live in the village of the allogenes, those from outside the local culture.

Typically of Ivorian, Malian, or Burkinabe origin, the pisteurs are experts at negotiation, judging human character, sensitive to local power issues, and unafraid of the myriad military barricades that impede commercial traffic on the majority of Ivorian roads.

The two layers of middlemen who have the capital to purchase scales and are able to read and write as well, are in a position of local price-fixing, collaborating with each other, renting tricked scales to farmers, inflating shipping costs, and any number of other behaviors that are commonly found around the world. The knowledge that such individuals have such power grates on farmers who in the end trust nobody. Last August, when asked whether joining a cooperative would improve his prospects at being paid for his beans, Nekpato Seri Augustin, owner of 10 acres of well-tended cocoa near the village of Bateguedea stated categorically, "Everyone is a crook."

There are over 1500 cooperatives in Ivory Coast. Because of the laissez-faire commercial atmosphere engendered by the hands-off attitudes of the government, these cooperatives are not always working in the interests of the farmers. Judging from comments of farmers interviewed by this author, it’s six-of-one-half-dozen-of-another when it comes to selling cocoa beans. You are just as likely to be ripped off by a pisteur as by the buying agent of a cooperative.

This is one of the advantages of the Fair Trade system. In order for its cocoa to be Fair Trade certified, a cooperative has to pass an inspection. There are multiple requirements. One is transparency and honesty. The scales must be accurate, for example. Whether reality meets theory in every case is a question this author is not qualified to answer. However, readers of this blog are encouraged to visit cooperatives. In this researcher's experience, having visited three in Africa (in Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Cameroon) and one graduate student having spent 3 weeks with the Conacado cooperative in the Dominican Republic, all four cooperatives were open and farmers interviewed were usually enthusiastic about their situation.

The political and military situation in Ivory Coast also weighs heavily on the cocoa farmer. In 2002, the country split into two halves, the northern half being primarily Muslim and the southern half being primarily Christian. A state of impending war continues to this day and, as the wife of one traitant put it to this researcher, “I was born in Côte d’Ivoire in 1932 and today, I live with two bags packed, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.” To fund a a state of readiness for war, the Ivorian government taxes all agricultural products, and cocoa is a prime target. As their standard of living has declined, cocoa-growing families have seen their children move to the big cities and they have been forced to hire labor. Some farmers have been forced to sell off traditional family lands, often to allogenes or non-Ivorians. This causes the size of the family farm to shrink and the economic viability of the cocoa farm to shrink as well. With a dwindling federal budget, Ivory Coast is hard-pressed to support agricultural programs. As a result, cocoa trees are aging and their yields are diminishing.

Large chocolate companies have done comparatively little to address such problems. They are owned by Western corporations that have, for one reason or another, developed a hands-off relationship with local government and local farmers. Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Nestlé have facilities in Ivory Coast, but they operate behind their fences and walls, relying mostly on local pisteurs and traitants to bring them the beans.

The author can think of three notable exceptions to the stand-offishness of Western corporations. One is the Swiss-owned firm of Barry-Callebaut, which has set up a pricing structure with 60 Ivorian cooperatives to base prices on quality. In addition, Barry-Callebaut has a cocoa bean sorting facility in the north central portion of the cocoa belt; the company shares the profits from that operation with local cooperatives. These sorts of efforts show a commitment by the company to work with local people and to engage in efforts to improve their financial welfare. A second exception is in neighboring Ghana, where Cadbury has embarked on several projects to improve quality of life as well as the quality of the cocoa bean itself. Cadbury donates money to build wells in villages, has funded environmentally sensitive ecotourism projects, and supports research into developing a better cocoa beans for the local area. A third exception, again in Ghana, is Kuapa Kokoo, the world's largest cocoa cooperative. Farmers belonging to this cooperative are also 30% owners of a British chocolate company, Day Chocolate Company, which produces exclusively Fair Trade chocoolate. Recently, Catholic Relief Services has launched a promotional campaign to assist sales of Divine chocolate, a Fair Trade chocolate bar produced by the Day Chocolate Company (http://salt.claretianpubs.org/sjnews/2005/11/sjn0511a.html).

Adoption of such relationships by American companies would help to combat poverty in the cocoa-growing areas of Ivory Coast by adding value for a bean that is properly grown, fermented, and dried. It is perhaps no coincidence that American companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, interested mostly in the cheapest possible cocoa bean for the Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé lines of chocolate inhaled by obese Americans, contribute nothing toward improvement of the commodity whereas the European company, working with locals to improve quality, fosters a closer commercial relationship with the local growers and a feeling of cooperation.

Since 2000, there has been growing concern over working conditions in the cocoa fields. Various journalists have documented instances of child slavery, and studies have shown a disturbing trend toward increasing reliance on child labor at the expense of providing children with an education. In July of 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed suit in U.S. District Court against Nestlé, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland for knowingly trafficking in a substance (cocoa) produced with child slave labor (http://www.glendalenewspress.com/business/story/19017p-26765c.html; http://www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/business/12134495.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp)

In August, 2001, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel wrote and passed the Harkins-Engel Protocol in conjunction with chocolate industry groups and child labor groups. This protocol was designed to implement a system of certification ensuring that the European and American consumer could eat their chocolate guilt-free. In July, 2005, because of inadequate action by the industry groups, three years were added to the deadline.

In the estimation of this researcher, it is unlikely that a system of certification will work. First, little effort has been expended toward organizing or creating a system of accountability. Second, such a system is akin to treating cancer with aspirin. One feels good temporarily, but the underlying illness, in this case poverty and structuural problems with the industry remain untreated. Or, at a more grizzly level, it is akin to lopping off an appendage to stop the cancer. Certification, even if it works, does nothing to stop the cancer of poverty. Over time, it will only drive chocolate companies toward Vietnamese and Indonesian cocoas.

The World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative have established farmers’ field schools, designed to inform Ivorian farmers about the impending protocol. These are temporary and do not treat the underlying cause of child labor abuse, which is poverty caused by years of neglect by the Ivorian government, the World Bank, and certain chocolate corporations.

Frustrated with the shallow responses of politicians and chocolate industry groups, this researcher established along with Ernie Roide of Promotion Plus, Inc. of San Luis Obispo and Eric Parkinson, a local attorney, the foundation, Project Hope and Fairness. Our intentions are to treat the illness of poverty rather than merely to certify chocolate as “abusive child labor free.” While we cannot change the current political and military situation in Ivory Coast, we can lobby American chocolate companies to become more involved in the field; we can point to companies like Barry-Callebaut and Cadbury that, on their own, are making positive contributions to the local economy. We can provide alternatives to field classes, working at the behavioral and affective levels instead of the merely cognitive. In our view of the situation, the farmer would be better served by being provided tools to dig him- or herself out of poverty.

We recognize that distributing in-kind gifts is not easy; much harder than running field schools. Typically, a lot of money will be spent just getting the tools from the merchant to the field. But when you walk through a West African cocoa-growing village and you realize that they have no electricity, no running water, no sewage, distant, over-subscribed schools, narrow foot paths, no transportation, no tools other than old machetes, you realize how much they would benefit from real material goods in addition to information about labor issues, new farming methods, and varieties of cocoa.

This document details an initial experimental treatment of the illness of poverty. We delivered three cocoa scales to three villages. Our Director of Operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Evariste Plegnon, purchased the scales in Abidjan from a Lebanese merchant, borrowed his truck and driver, bought the services of two security officers, and drove the scales to the villages of Zereguhé, Depa, and Bateguedea. This experiment is a longitudinal study of farmers’ reactions to the scales, of how villages ensure that the scales are used properly, determination of who benefits from the scales, and how access to them is controled. This information will be gathered by the researcher who visits the villages every summer.

The West African village is a sociopolitical entity that is functional. When visitors come from the outside, certain individuals are responsible for greeting them. When the pisteur or buyer comes to the village, everyone knows who is reponsible for negotiating prices and delivery times. Some villages have old scales. Others rent scales. But as you will see from comments in this document, the scale is a powerful tool for improving the economic lot of the cocoa farmer.

Thus, when Evariste, our Operations Manager, delivered three scales to three villages, the response was predictable and consistent: a universal feeling of euphoria and thankfulness. People moved the scales around from house to house, and everyone got a chance to weigh him or herself as well as the children.

Our idea is to provide thousands of such scales. There are over 600,000 cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, and many of them are connected to villages or to campements or hamlets. Thus, one concern--whether a scale donated to farmers might languish for want of people who understand weight--appears to not be a problem. As demonstrated in the three villages, Depa, Bateguedea, and Zereguhé, the villages were already in the habit of renting scales. Also as demonstrated by Evariste’s interviews, the village divides naturally into the chief, the women farmers, and the young farmers. In all three cases, the young farmers took it upon themselves to form committees to teach people how to use the scales.

One comment that may prove to be prophetic is the concern over equity. Since everyone consistently owns nothing, and since now three villages have scales whereas surrounding villages do not have scales, a certain amount of jealousy may develop. Time will tell.

One can only be moved by the responses of the villagers to this gift. One might suspect that their response is not proportionate to the size and value of the scale but more to the notion that someone who passed through for a couple of hours actually would give them something like this and that someone in another part of the world might care about them. The scale becomes a POWERFUL SYMBOL OF LOVE.

A note of thanks to Evariste, Director of Operations for Ivory Coast, who has proven to be reliable and creative in his dealings with the police, the paramilitary groups, the military, and others. We are very pleased that our first efforts were so well received, and we are also very happy with the plethora of pictures and interviews that help potential donors understand the situation and learn something about Ivorians. In the interest of space, the majority of pictures have not been included in this blog.

If the reader is interested in obtaining a CD of pictures, a Powerpoint, a pdf of our efforts at distributing tools, it may be obtained by making a donation to our foundation. See the Section "Purchasing Items".

Monday, December 05, 2005

Slavery Then, Slavery Now

In July 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund and Global Exchange filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal District court against Nestle, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland. In the suit, they claim that these companies (which supply over 70% of the beans for American chocolate) knowingly traffic in a substance, cocoa, that was produced by child slave labor. ILRF and Global Exchange claim to have gathered evidence that will stand up in court.

ILRF, Global Exchange, and Oxfam have used the child slavery issue to push Fair Trade, which is one way to ensure that the chocolate you eat has not been made from beans picked by slaves. This past Halloween, these three organizations ran a "Fair Trade is Boo-ti-ful!" campaign in which a bag of orange foil wrapped milk chocolate crunch chocolates was sold along with a postcard addressed to the CEO of Nestlé. The chocolates were produced by Yours Truly, as was the slogan.

The child slavery-chocolate connection is not new. Only a hundred years ago, between 1901 and 1909, the Cadbury company, owned by a Quaker family, was presented with an ethical dilemma. At the time, most of their cocoa beans were coming from the island of Sao Tomé, off of the west coast of Africa. Labor for the cocoa plantations, owned by prominant Portuguese families, was imported from nearby Angola, which supplied thousands of slaves. A great number of these workers were killed before they ever embarked, and mortality of workers on the plantations in Sao Tomé was very high. Children born to these slaves themselves became slaves.

A lawsuit, documented in the book, Chocolate on Trial, brought by Cadbury against a newspaper, highlighted the hypocrisy of the Cadbury corporation which felt that it could better terminate slavery by purchasing cocoa beans from the Portuguese and then exert pressure on the Portuguese government via the British Foreign Office. During the 8 years that Cadbury purchased Sao Tomé beans, some of the worst slavery as has ever been practiced on this planet was used to harvest the beans used in Cadbury products. This did not sit well with the British public.

In the ensuing hundred years, Cadbury encouraged the planting of cocoa on Ghanaian farms. Today Ghanaian cocoa beans are considered among the world's best, and Cadbury has been active in promoting new cocoa varieties, drilling wells in villages, and promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana.

The situation in Ivory Coast is not even in the same realm as that of Sao Tomé one hundred years ago. Instances of slavery are subtle and difficult to document. Unlike the slavery of Angola and Sao Tomé, there are no skulls, no dead bodies, no shackles hanging from trees along trails. The children who claim to have been enslaved are already back in Mali. But there are other factors that make this kind of story especially irritating. For example, 30 years ago, the disparity between the richest and poorest quintiles of the world's population was a factor of 30. Today, it is 60. The rich (us) have doubled our incomes relative to the poorest (families in Mali.)

There are other differences as well. This time, the trial is not between two corporations, one claiming to have been defamed by the other. Instead, the trial is against three corporations by two NGOs. In this case, the plaintants have to prove something a lot more difficult: that slavery is obvious enough that the companies knew it existed and persisted anyway.

Still another difference--the audience. The American public is not nearly as well-read as the British public was a hundred years ago, and people who care about this issue are arguably a smaller proportion of the population. In the opinion of this observer, the average American citizen has no idea where Ivory Coast is, does not know how chocolate is made, and has little interest in learning about labor issues or about people living in far-off lands. Apologies for the cynicism, but I fear I am right about this.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Delivering Third Scale to Bateguedea


Bateguedea is a 20-minute taxi ride outside of Daloa, one of the main cocoa cities in Ivory Coast. It was here that several newspaper reporters were able to interview children who claimed to have been treated as slaves during their times on local cocoa farms. We continue with Evariste's comments...

The person with me in front of the sign is Lucien Guedeguhé. He is an especially prosperous farmer of his generation. He lives at Bateguedea.

The people sitting down: among them is the chef of the village. He is wearing the cloth on his head. His name is Guilbert Gavriel Ballet and his vice-chief is named Baroan Alphonse Gadé.



Interviews...

To the village chief: What are you feeling right now?

Evariste, through you we thank Mr. Tom. He is our savior. At one time, the village had a scale, but it was very old and dilapidated. Every time we needed a scale, we were forced to rent one and the pisteurs always charged a high price. Other times, people refused to lend us their scales. Mr. Tom has liberated us from the trickery of the pisteurs and the cooperative agents. May God bless this foundation with a long life so that it can liberate our neighboring villages as well.
Les interview de batteguedea:

The second question was asked of the head of the women farmers..

How useful is this scale?

First, before making a big speech, I thank you and the donor Tom for this grand symbolic geste. The arrival of this scale will eliminate a lot of problems--that is, theft and cheating. And thanks to the apprenticeship committee we will learn how to use the scale and this information will help us wherever we do business.

In the name of all the women farmers, I am so thankful, because now we will know the weights of our goods before we set out to sell them.

And before finishing my speech, I would like to say that we are looking forward to giving to Mr. Tom our ancestral blessing.

The third question was posed to the vice-chief, Alphonse Baroan.

Are you happy with the scale?

Yes, we are very, very happy with this great gift. I think all the benedictions have already been said to Tom. And as the young vice-chief, we ask simply of Tom to think about the neighboring village so that harmony may always exist between the farmers in all the villages around Daloa. Today, we are liberated, but there are other villages. We would like him to make an effort to satisfy those villages. If he can do it before the new year, that would give us great pleasure, as we can celebrate the festival of the scales.

Also, I ask Mr. Tom to think about our boots so we can avoid the reptiles that are so numerous under our cacao trees. Farmers don’t earn enough to pay for the antiserum in case of snake bite.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Delivering Second Scale to Zereguhe

These are Evariste's words about his experiences in Zereguhe, which is located near Depa.

"The chef of the village of Zereguhé is called Mr. Maurice Lago. His wife has a major position in the running of the village. Her name is Madame Yohou Oré. She is president of the women farmers of the village. I established a scale committee here as in the other villages.

Tom, while this country is actually at peace, I would like to take advantage of this by giving farmers boots, because we are in full harvest season, and you can help them harvest with less risk. We could give 50 boots to each village. I’m bringing this up becauuse I get regular requests from the inhabitants of the villages that got the scales, asking me to locate some boots. Without these boots, the farmers cannot work securely on their farms. While I visited the farms, young people hammered away at me about boots. This is just a reminder; earlier, when opening my notebook, I found the request from young farmers at the beginning of the voyage.

Members of the apprenticeship committee that I established. They are delivering the scale to the chief of the village, Mr Maurice Lago.



Roger Guédé, the president of the young farmers of the village blesses the scale with red wine in order to say hello to the ancestors and to thank them.



Interviews...

A question of the president of the young farmers of the village, Mr. Roger Guédé: What do you think of this gift?

Thank you Evariste. The words fail me. I thank the foundation. In the name of all of the village, may God grant lots of success to this foundation which is the savior of the Ivorian cocoa farmers. We ask that Tom save us from the snake bites by giving us boots. We also ask for machetes. Ours are very old. Once again, we thank the foundation!

A second question to the president of the women farmers, Madame Yohou Oré. What are you feeling in this moment?

As president of the women farmers of Zereguhé, and in the name of all the women in the village, we are really overwhelmed with joy and we thank you, Mr. Tom, who has kept his promise. Actually, he can’t possibly know the happiness of the village. Our greatest worry, however, are the boots. The snakes arae dangerous here. We women also wear boots. Also, there are neighboring villages that will resent that we have a scale. The foundation should think about them.

The third question was posed to the counselor to the village chief, Mr. Toussaint Nogui. Do you have other requests?

First, we thank Mr. Tom and Evariste for the scale. We would like point out that when it rains, we have a hard time to go to our farms. We need boots. Second, after our cocoa has fermented, for those of us who live farther from the village, we need a small truck to transport the beans as well as other agricultural products. Third: we need tools (daba, machete, broullette).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Delivering First Scale to Depa

Evariste delivered the first scale to Depa, which is a couple of km outside of Issia. The village celebrated, and the chief put on his royal garb. People were so excited to receive this gift. They took pictures of themselves with the scale.


Mr. Dede Seri Justin gets on the scale to take his weight, amid much hilarity. He is wearing the royal clothing, called the kita.

The committee of apprenticeship put a cocoa bag weighing 100 Kg on the scale, and two cocoa pods across from Jules Dalo, who has the red scarf around his neck. He’s one of the most important farmers in the village. The scale will hold only 200 Kg of cocoa, which means only two bags weighing 100 Kg each.



Presentation of the scale to the president of the women farmers. Her name is Manzo Helene Lago.



Interviews in the Village of Depa. Evariste interviewed the chief, the head of the women farmers, and the

• Question for the chief of the village of Depa: What do you think of this gift?

I think that this gift is very welcome. Right now, our village does not own a scale. You know that in our region the village of Depa is known for its high production of cocoa and the scale is really very important for us; it represents a big jewel. As chef of the village, I am really happy and I and my people pray that this foundation will excel. One more time, thanks for this marvelous gift which comes straight from the heart. And thanks to you, Evariste, for being the messenger of the scale. May God keep and protect you.

• Question for the President of the Women Farmers: As President of the Women Farmers, how would you say this scale can help you?

First, in the name of all the women in this village and women farmers, we thank you for this important gift for the village because now we can weigh our products without going elsewhere and also we won’t fall victim to the thefts of the pisteurs.

Also, we grow manioc (cassava), yam (Diocorea batatas), and corn. We need to use the scale to weigh these products at the village before delivering to the buyers coming from Abidjan.

Before finishing, we thank you and the members of this foundation, particularly the President Tom, whom we want to see again here in Depa so we can clothe him as the second chef of the village.

• Question for the President of the Youth of Depa: As President of the Youth, what do you think of the arrival of this scale?

First, we are very happy, as we don’t have to borrow scales from agents of cooperatives or from pisteurs. Next, thanks to this scale, a Committee for the Manipulation of the Scale has formed in the village, and now all the young farmers know how to use the scale.

We will no longer be victim of the machinations of the cooperative agents or the pisteurs.

And then when we were without scale, we were obligated to negotiate the price of the Kg with the pisteurs and the cooperatives, which caused a lot of conflict. Tom, you are the savior of the Ivorian youth!

One thing only we would like it if you were to consider the political situation with the surrounding villages who don’t have scales. We don’t want hatred to be created among the youth. We ask that you remember that.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Overview of Evariste's Mission to Three Villages in Ivory Coast




The rest of this paper documents the first donation of cocoa scales by Project Hope and Fairness. The scales were purchased from a Lebanese merchant in Abidjan by Evariste Plegnon, the foundation’s Director of Operations. After purchasing the scales, Evariste rented the merchant’s truck and driver and they made their way toward Daloa and Issia, two of the most important villages in the Western Cocoa-Growing region. They paid the usual fees to pass numerous military barricades, which are largely self-supporting, and reached the Yamassoukro area, where they were stopped and the scales were impounded. For $150, the scales were released on condition that they return to Abidjan.

Evariste set out again, this time with a letter of intent from the foundation identifying the purposes of the scales. In Yamassoukro, the government had been suspicious of their purpose, as they could be taken north of the border with the rebels where they might be used to improve economic conditions in the occupied zone. Evariste also took with him two policemen, who cost a total of $1200 for the 11-day trip. Their purpose was to demonstrate power and credibility. He purchased their services from the director of airport security, a personal friend.

Below are maps that help the reader understand the geography of the region...