First impressions that will last a lifetime…

I saw Cote d’Ivoire in the daylight for the first time yesterday. After being picked up from my “luxury” hotel in Grand Bassam, I travelled by car to Abidjan through many villages and roadside markets. By Western standards, these would be considered slums. I was a bit depressed and sad for the local people, but I quickly realized these people are not poor in spirit! They walk proudly with a spring in their step and everyone I have met has had a warm smile on their face – they live in the moment and I feel I have much to learn from them.

I am learning a lot about the many complex issues in Cote d’Ivoire. For example, one of the causes of deforestation is charcoal. The local people use the charcoal to cook food for their families. Without charcoal, how would they cook their food?

My journey began today with a trip to Agboville, a large community in southern CdI. We began at the local cooperative. We were met by many locals excited to meet us. Then we went to the first cocoa farm to meet Fofana Danon and his family. He has 7 children and became a cocoa farmer in 2005 when his father passed. He knew nothing about cocoa and learned through trial and error until he began to learn about good farming practices through UTZ and Cargill. The highlight of my day was seeing his daughter taste chocolate for the first time! It was priceless and I was so into the moment, I didn’t even think of taking a picture until she was finished.

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