Tom Deveson reviews Comic Relief 's new website and resources on cocoa and chocolate which aim to help change the world 'chunk by chunk'
British children, on average, get pound;166 a year in pocket money and spend two-thirds of it on sweets and chocolate. The average annual income of a cocoa farmer in Ghana is pound;160. Statistics like these stimulate both thought and action. One influential action was the launch, five years ago, of the Dubble chocolate bar. It's made according to fair-trade principles by a company which is partly owned by a co-operative of 45,000 farmers spread over a thousand Ghanaian villages. As for thought - the newly launched PaPaPaa website brings together hundreds of good ideas for helping young people learn about the true conditions of chocolate production and how they can contribute towards changing them.
PaPaPaa means "best of the best" in the Twi language, and great care has been taken to make the website of consistently high quality. It's meant for pupils at key stages 23, and will help them realise that the chocolate they buy is part of a complicated social, geographical and economic web whose nature is easily hidden by advertisements and consumer habits. There is excellent guidance for teachers on how to plan their work, together with inspiration from schools all over the country where students have already organised their own fair-trade sweet stalls or altered the purchasing policy of their caterers. There are dozens of well-considered lesson plans, clearly set out in introductory, main and plenary sections.
Issues in PSHE - what do we mean by a "fair deal" or how does "ethical shopping" work? - arise from the careful examination of facts. We learn about an ordinary day on a cocoa farm and are given serious and detailed information about the cost of living - covering items from cooking oil to children's clothes.
Literacy and numeracy skills are sharpened in activities like writing a chronological account of the transformation of cocoa "from bean to bar" or in the manipulation of percentages and ratios in the context of prices and trade figures. Elsewhere, pupils can draw on their gifts of imagination, empathy, presentation and performance. There is something to engage everyone. The topics can easily be adapted to different capabilities within the class.
One activity asks us to work out what difference an extra pound;150 - a possible bonus for those who join the co-operative - might make to a family. There are intriguing problems that involve calculating how much could be spent on items like school fees or medicine. For older children, the challenge is greater; they are asked to devise several different budgets, covering emergencies and small luxuries, and to compare their decisions with those made by classmates. There is a generous amount of material on the site and it's all free.
For just pound;8 you can order two excellent resources which will give students a broader appreciation of what they have learned. The DVD Dubble Take features a 35-minute film plus an extra half-hour of supplementary material, introduced by the CBBC presenter Ade Adepitan. He guides us in friendly fashion from scenes where cocoa pods are being cut (not as easy as it looks), through the drying and weighing process and on to UK schools where the chocolate is sold. We meet Mary, who demonstrates the unrelenting work of maintaining her 10-acre farm, and we see how elected co-op officials have brought water pumps to villages by means of a "social premium" payment.
We grasp the meaning of phrases like "purchasing power" and "futures market" as we watch traders in London make large profits for powerful companies via their computer screens without once smelling a cocoa bean.
It's refreshing to hear a supermarket manager insist that ordinary consumers can genuinely advance the cause of fair-trade products in our stores and to join a conversation in which Ellesmere Port students describe how they got Dubble bars sold in their school. The realistic aspects of idealism are always compelling.
The photo pack comprises 20 appealing A4 images. Some show life in a Ghanaian village - schoolchildren in yellow shirts caught in bright sunlight and the shadowed yard of a cocoa farm. Faces look directly at us, smiling or quizzical; others concentrate on the task of checking fermentation or weighing the beans. They are silent but eloquent, inviting us, as the website puts it, to help "change the world chunk by chunk".