An internship at fairafric

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Chocolate Made in Ghana. A young social enterprise that produces fair chocolate and turns the industry upside down. A chocolate revolution?

 

“This is once again such a hip, pseudo-social company with good marketing.”, I thought to myself when I saw the colorful chocolate bars in a shop window in downtown Bonn. This is me: 25 years young, my master’s degree in agricultural economics is gradually coming to an end and I’m currently in search of new meaningful inspiration, an internship! On the bike ride home, one thought stuck. “Made with love in Ghana” was written on the back of the packaging. “What if they make all the chocolate bars in Ghana?”, I thought to myself. To leave the cultivation, processing, upstream and downstream processes in the country of origin of the raw material, I only knew that from organic projects in Burkina Faso to dried mangos or pineapples. But chocolate production?

Curious, barely arrived at home, I grabbed my computer, some information had to follow. Quickly I clicked my way through the fairafric website: cocoa market in Ghana, world market prices, fair trade, in fact: the unprocessed export of cocoa beans generates around $2,400 in income, with the processing of the beans on site and the production of chocolate bars generating more than $10,000 in local income.

I reviewed the last two years. Much of my time was spent on issues related to cultivation, processing and the related strengthening of small-scale farming in the global value chain. I had to think of my friend, whom I met during an internship in Benin. “You won’t find work on the countryside, believe me. That is why I came to Cotonou”. We often talked about the role of agriculture, family & work. For his age, he was already travelling a lot for work, also in Ghana and Togo.

 

I looked back at the screen and the writing “fairafric Impact”. I had been looking for an internship for some time. The employment as well as the company should be based on something innovative, honest and changing. In the next step I was working on my application for an internship at fairafric in Sales & Operations. Shortly afterwards it was already sent. Not even seven days later I was able to talk to Julia on the phone in a friendly way and full of energy. The latter also turned out to be my personal guiding principle at fairafric, but one thing at a time.

Move to Munich in January, first day & getting to know each other

 

Over half a year later and in anticipation of fairafric, especially of who and what is behind the idea, I finally headed south. Although I originally grew up in Bavaria (Rödelmaier in Lower Franconia), I never thought that I would one day be drawn to Munich. Why should I? High rents, expensive beer, a little too much upper-class fuss, FC Bayern München. But one thing was clear to me, I wanted to build up my own picture – and of course Munich can offer more. Hiking, winter sports, or sunbathing in the English Garden, you have to give every city the chance to prove itself. And with a little flexibility, organization and the right attitude, it is well worth the try. Now a little more about this:

 

Having moved in with my new roommate, I left early the following Tuesday. First the U6, then the U3 direction Obersendling. Here it is: Sirius Business Park and somewhere here the offices of fairafric. After a short search I stood in the office and new faces were smiling at me from every corner of the room. The friendly welcome and introduction of the individual team members made me think: “They are in a really good mood!” I was immediately guided through the office: “Here you can find electronic equipment and you can make yourself comfortable there; next to it there is a refrigerator, a water boiler as well as a shelf with tea & coffee for everyone and here is our hygiene box, including plasters and spray deodorant, in case it gets a little warmer during the arrival by bike.” First very pleasant impression – check!

 

Together with my contact person, the introduction to topics such as occupational safety, hygiene & work in the warehouse, dealing with people and systems (e-mail, software programs) was very easy. Latest after an introductory video on occupational safety & health in everyday work I realized, “they really care about this & good organisation!” After the first “arrival” I was welcomed by the sales team and had second a short talk with the whole team. The basic sales structures were explained to me: cooperation in fair trade, fairafric fans and end customers, conditions for chocolate and lots of tips on “mistakes” that have already been made and from which they had learned over time. It was precisely the awareness of being allowed to make mistakes and to learn from them that made it easier to get started from day one. The first half of the day went by in no time and after a nice lunch with the whole team, I had the chance to get a whiff of sales air in the afternoon. If you do not know them yet, then it’ s about time you discover “Weltläden” (or the retail trade of fair products). Volunteer-led, super-friendly staff and a great sense of humor! The first phone calls were a bit reserved, but soon the friendly staff of the many stores got me talking. So the first days went by. Step by step I got used to the daily work, challenges and positive feedback from employees in Germany and fairafric Ghana. In addition to activities in sales, such as the exchange with existing retailers, wholesalers and end customers, I also took on more and more responsibility and tasks in packing the delicious chocolate in the warehouse as well as my own small projects for packing the chocolate in cooperation with the Caritas Werkstatt for handicapped people in Munich.

 

In addition to the core activities, I quickly got to know the dynamics and enthusiasm at fairafric. Besides weekly sports units like “Fit am Mitt” and the lunches with the whole team, I was welcomed in Munich’s night culture in the first week, where Grüner Apfel meets snaps (drink in Café Kosmos) and one gets to know the nightly subway travel times in Munich better (or not).

 

Time flies: fairafric Ghana, Heldenmarket in Hamburg, tastings & Co.

 

Yes, time flew by and the more time I spent with fairafric, the more fun it was to work together as a team and participate in the enterprise “Chocolate made in Ghana”. I am very lucky to meet the production manager of fairafric Ghana in the second month of my internship and to hear about the activities and development in Ghana. Last year, in 2019, fairafric had planned to set up a new production site in Suhum, Ghana, and start the project “New Chocolate Factory”. As the second month of the internship passed rapidly, the topic of factory construction also progressed. A solar-powered, modern chocolate factory, in which organic quality chocolate is produced from the bean to the finished chocolate bar. In addition, a production site which operation provides numerous jobs, creates acceptance security for small farms and can be seen as a multiplier of social and economic value-added processes in the region. I was able to follow closely until the end of my internship, how much commitment the whole team put into this project.

 

But before the second half of the internship was almost over, the entire team gave me plenty of opportunities to gain a variety of experiences. One of the most exciting ones took place in Hamburg at the Heldenmarkt: a trade fair for heroes and those who want to become one. I had the opportunity to get involved in the complete preparation and realization of the trade fair. Finally, I was able to exchange information about our chocolate, the cultivation and processing in Ghana as well as speak about everyday topics with interested people for a whole weekend. The days of the trade fair were exhausting and a lot of fun at the same time. After a short reunion in Munich, I was also able to familiarize myself with the food retail trade (Edekas) at two tastings. At tastings we give our customers the time and space to taste our chocolate and get their own impression of fairafric by answering their questions.

 

Broken chocolate, expectations & what I take with me from the internship

 

My experience in this short period of time: At fairafric not everything is about chocolate, it is also about overriding political, social and economic issues and the impact on people and the environment. But of course, there is also chocolate to snack in the office almost every day (of course only those chocolates that are broken or would not be suitable for direct distribution for other reasons). In this sense, my expectations were not exceeded. But in another: especially during the short internship period I was given a lot of freedom to participate & responsibility for exciting tasks, from tree to bar. In addition to research on financing, fair trade topics and the co-organization of our team workshop on “gender-appropriate language”, there was always the space for develop my own ideas & tasks.

 

At the end of my internship I found a pleasant confirmation besides the daily intensive and beautiful experience. The marketing of fairafric is indeed very good, but first and foremost because of the innovative approach and the huge commitment of the teams in Ghana and in Germany. Just try it yourself!