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Raising the bar

Chocolate used to teach agriculture

The American cartoonist Charles M Schulz, best known for the comic strip Peanuts, once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Officials in Grenada have found a way to marry a little chocolate with something for which the youth seem to show very little love: agriculture.

Worried that the agricultural labour force is dying due to an aging farmer population and a lack of interest by young people, industry officials have devised a means to introduce some of the country’s youngest citizens to one of its favourite cash crops.

They are using the opportunity provided by this week’s Chocolate Festival to organize educational sessions for students,

Grade Four students of the St Louis RC Girls School yesterday visited the National Museum and the House of Chocolate in the capital, St Georges, where they got a lesson on the history of the island’s cocoa industry.

Students of the St Louis R.C. Girls School visit the House of Chocolate.

Students of the St Louis R.C. Girls School visit the House of Chocolate.

Students learn about the history of the island’s cocoa industry.

Students learn about the history of the island’s cocoa industry.

One student tries her hand at grinding cocoa beans.

One student tries her hand at grinding cocoa beans.

Their class teacher Teheria Viechweg welcomed the exercise for her nine and ten year-old charges.

“The whole idea is to build an interest and to give the children an idea of the different types of chocolate, also as one of the persons was informing them there is a difference between what we term as chocolate and what they’re actually eating now as real chocolate . . . It’s rather educational for them.  When they see the local bars now they can know all the processes and all the hard work that [went] into it,” she said.

The same students visited the festival last year as part of their creative writing programme at the Grenada community library, and were inspired to write about the Grenadian cocoa experience.

That exercise resulted in the production of a children’s book, the Grenada Chocolate Family, which was launched last night as part of activities for this year’s festival.

The book tells the story of Grenada chocolate, from its inception as a bean to the final product, the chocolate bar.

Author and co-founder of the community library, Oonya Kempadoo, said she was pleased with the final product and the support for the project.

Author and co-founder of Grenada Community Library, Oonya Kempadoo.

Author and co-founder of Grenada Community Library, Oonya Kempadoo.

“It’s really been a very creative and organic project that we never thought would become a book.  I thought that I would just publish a few copies for sharing but when our volunteer Sara Scoedeler, who is already practicing illustration, so . . . we went ahead and did that”

Kempadoo worked with Stacey Byer, a Grenadian illustrator, and Ricardo Keen-Douglas, a Grenadian writer of children stories and the brother of the well-known Trinidadian storyteller, Paul Keen-Douglas.

“We were able to produce this book with the sponsorship that the honorary German Consul in Grenada found for us from a German chocolate company that has a foundation for helping cocoa producing countries and doing philanthropic work in those countries,” Kempadoo noted.

Chocolate companies that use Grenadian beans are also sponsoring copies of the children’s book.

“So we signed an agreement that when a sponsor sponsors 100 copies, for instance, 50 per cent of those are for free distribution and 50 per cent are for sale to raise funds for the library,” she explained.

Kempadoo opened the library in 2013 with support from faith-based organization Mount Zion for Gospel, and another support group, Ground Nation Grenada. It was an attempt to provide a creative outlet for children, who lost the national library to Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

“We have a membership rate of 100 new members per month and as people join, mostly children and teens, their demand for literacy services create programmes for us.  So we respond to that with our volunteers; so creative writing came out of that,” she said.

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