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With more than $100 billion estimated to be spent on chocolate globally this year, Emma Halliday explains how volunteers and staff at The FIG Tree @ St. Johns in Lancaster are using bean to bar chocolate making to raise awareness of the growers who devote their lives to produce luxury items that we so often take for granted.

Chocolate making activities are run as part of Centre’s education programme, building on a longstanding friendship with cocoa farmers in New Koforidua, Ghana.  The FIG Tree Fair Trade Chocolate workshops are organised for schools, community groups, businesses and the public. During the workshops people of all ages get involved in the process of roasting and dehusking beans (purchased directly from New Koforidua), and then turn the beans into bars of their own chocolate. Most members of New Koforidua, a Ghanaian farming community, also belong to the cooperative Kuapa Kokoo that helped to create and now partially own the Fairtrade Company – Divine Chocolate Ltd.

The Fig Tree Centre, established in 2011, also supports the International Fair Trade Towns movement and promotes awareness of Fair Trade by using the transatlantic slave trade, and abolitionist movement to draw attention to trade injustices both now and then. The centre recently relocated to St John’s Church, North Road in Lancaster, after three years in its previous home of Garstang – the world’s first Fair Trade Town.

Following a Santander SEDA Award in 2013, enabling the purchase of specialist equipment, The FIG Tree has been working on developing its own chocolate making enterprise. Bars for sale in the Centre’s café and shop at St John’s are packaged in fair trade hand-made paper from Nepal and where possible, use fair trade spice drops from Kerala to flavour the chocolate.  Unlike many chocolatiers who buy in ready produced couverture, handmade bars are made directly from the ‘bean’ by a growing team of volunteers.

Whether its milk brought from dairy farmers in the UK or cocoa sold by farmers overseas, fair trade is about what trade should be – mutual beneficial relationships for both the seller and the buyer. Bruce Crowther, Director of The FIG Tree explains, “it’s not only immoral that farmers don’t get a fair price to provide us with cheap luxuries, but it’s not sustainable.  The planet can’t survive when the people who grow our food are not even paid the cost of production.”

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