Last Tuesday, February 14, 2023, was the last day of the National Chocolate Week. The theme for the National Chocolate Week is “Eat Chocolate, Stay Healthy, Grow Ghana”. At the Chocolate City at the Tetteh Quarshie Roundabout, I noticed new exhibitors who are newcomers on the market. I was happy because that is a shot in the arm of efforts to facilitate entry of local artisanal cocoa products manufacturers into the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA- an agreement to increase intra-Africa trade- a population of about 1.3 billion with a trade potential of about $3.4 trillion.
I made sure I continued with my focus on the gut microbiota (GM) when I was called upon to give talks on the health benefits of cocoa. The gut microbiota (GM) is regarded as the second brain of body in view of the close crosstalk between the GM and the brain and overall wellbeing of the body. Polyphenol containing foods (of which cocoa is an excellent source) nourish the GM, improve gut health and enhance the health status of the person. I talked about ways of increasing the use of cocoa. These include blending with other beverages or foods that people are used to-coffee, tea, porridge, jollof, waakye. Sauces, soups and pastries. Some products by cocoa processing companies are already on the market in that regard.
I was asked about ways of promoting cocoa at official functions. This person was actually concerned about why we do not have cocoa breaks like we have coffee breaks at programmes held at hotels. The collaboration between COCOBOD and the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) in celebrating the National Chocolate Week is among others meant to bring on board the players within the hospitality industry. I have no doubt at all that increasing awareness about the health benefits of cocoa will lead to increased demand for cocoa at every occasion.
Someone asked whether we were aware that some by-products of cocoa were being exported as soap outside the country. In the processing of cocoa about 90 percent is discharged as waste. This area has attracted a lot of research by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) resulting in a lot of byproducts of cocoa- soap, fertiliser, animal feed and juices. CRIG has a lot of information in this regard on its website. Interest in development and utilization of cocoa by-products from fresh pod and farm waste dates back to the inception of CRIG.. The cocoa pod husks (CPH) have been processed into animal feed by processes of slicing, partial drying, and pelletizing into granules. The dried pellets are used in animal feed formulations. Feeding trials have been conducted on sheep, pigs and poultry by CRIG in conjunction with the Animal Research Institute (ARI), Accra and University of Science And Technology KNUST, Kumasi. Potash is produced from the burnt dry cocoa pod husk. It is the main source of alkali used by the local soap industry for production of Local Soft Soap (Alata Samina), Liquid soap, Medicinal soft soap (Dark Soap) and fertiliser.
Someone inquired about access to small quantities of cocoa beans for processing. This is an area that has been extensively worked on by COCOBOD through the Cocoa Marketing Company. This has resulted in the establishment of a desk within COCOBOD for the artisanal and small scale cocoa products manufacturers. This in line with COCOBOD’s policy of increasing local processing of cocoa and facilitating access of cocoa products into AFCFTA.
I was then asked to move to a famous private school in Accra to talk to them about health benefits of Cocoa. The school is made up of three campuses- one campus has the creche to nursery 2, the second is from KG1 to Grade 3 and the third, from Grade 4 to JHS 3. My sessions were with the second and third campuses. The information was essentially the same but in different formats because of the age differences. At the campus for KG1 to Grade 3 I had to use one of my favourite activities when I was at that level-”Head, shoulder, knees and toes……” I believe the children enjoyed because after going through the motion a number of times they informed me that they could also sing in it French. They happily went through the same motion in French several times.
I told the children about the health benefits of cocoa right from the hair to the toe. The children were excited to learn about the effects of daily consumption of cocoa on their skin, learning processes, visual acuity, heart function, physical performance, improved immune system and overall enhanced health condition. I told them that cocoa can be incorporated into all the Ghanaian dishes. I told them our current per capita consumption of cocoa per year is 1kg (1000g). Although this is a marked improvement over 500g at the onset of the Cocoa Consumption campaign, we still need to consume more if we want to Stay Healthy and Grow Ghana.
At 1kg per capita consumption we are currently doing about 2.74g per person per day. Other countries which do not produce cocoa are doing per capita consumption of 5kg-8kg. At 5kg per capita such countries are consuming about 13.7g per person per day. Which is about five times of what we are doing per person per day. Ghana has the reputation of producing the best quality cocoa. I told them to pass on the message to their parents, and guardians. I got a feedback on this bit some hours later. A friend sent me a message complimenting me for educating their children in school today about the health benefits of cocoa. I quickly knew that other parents, guardians I do not know are also going to get the same message from their children. This is huge opportunity to spread the health benefits of cocoa.
I have been working at Cocoa Clinic for several years now. This year 2023 marks the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Cocoa Clinic. I will be coming back to story.
Eat Chocolate, Stay Healthy, Grow Ghana.
The writer is the Chief Pharmacist,
By Dr. Edward O. Amporful