World Cocoa Foundation member Meiji Co., Ltd., based in Japan, supports independent cocoa farmers under the “Meiji Cocoa Support” program. This includes art classes and chocolate-making classes for Ghanaian school children. A program we run in Ghana, the Meiji Chocolate Class, gives children the experience of making chocolate by hand, using the fresh cocoa that has been harvested, fermented, and dried within their own communities. The other ingredients and materials required for chocolate making are also sourced from local communities.
With teacher guidance, the students made a fire with charcoal and then roasted the cocoa beans in a pan. They then used a traditional ‘Tapori’ (wooden pestle) and ‘Asanka’ (earthenware mortar) to grind the cocoa into a paste, known as cocoa liquor. As you can imagine this grinding stage is very hard work, but the children enjoyed the challenge. Once the cocoa liquor is smooth enough, sugar and cocoa butter is added to the mixture to make chocolate. The chocolate mixture was then poured into molds and left to carefully cool in the refrigerator.
The most difficult part of the whole process was getting the excited children to wait patiently for the chocolate to cool before they could taste it. Finally, once the chocolate was ready, and the children eagerly try it. This was the first time that many of the people from the community had made chocolate.
Since 2010, Meiji has worked with teachers in Accra and Kumasi to teach art classes in cocoa community-based schools. When we visit communities, in accordance with Ghanaian tradition, we first visit the Chief’s household, and then go to the school to meet with local teachers. After an orientation, the children begin to draw and paint – sometimes even making crafts about cocoa. We found initially that the children were hesitant to undertake these activities, as art was not a familiar subject, but under the careful guidance of the teachers, they were able to produce some wonderful work. After the class, there was a small awards ceremony for select paintings and a photo-op of the children with their finished pieces. The children thoroughly enjoyed this memorable occasion and some of the award-winning artworks will be displayed at special events in Japan.
Meiji’s Art Class and Chocolate Class have proven to be very popular activities not only with the children in cocoa growing communities, but also the adults. We hope these classes continue to inspire young generations to love cocoa and chocolate.