November 12, 2022 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Students in the experiential learning POL3408F: Ghana Field Course covered over 1,000 km in the West African country in eight days during their bottom-up exploration of the cocoa supply chain and related global governance issues. The 18 students conducted original field research and are producing major research papers on a range of interesting topics including the international political economy of cocoa production and marketing, local conflict prevention, resolution, peacemaking and peacebuilding practices, informal economy and governance, human rights, small-scale mining practices, land use, re/deforestation, sustainable development, gender, race, climate change, trade, foreign direct investment, and poverty reduction.

Led by Drs. Thomas Tieku and Erin Hannah, Associate Professors in the Department of Politics and International Relations, and teaching assistants Victoria Hinkson and Clara Graham, the group began their geographic and political journey on October 27 in Accra, the capital of Ghana. From there, they travelled to Kumasi in the savanna belt, to the Elubo border between Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire in the west, to Cape Coast in the central region, and finally back to Accra in the south.

Their experience started with a road trip to Kumasi where they had a working dinner with representatives of the Ghanaian academic community, the Palace of the King of Asante, the cocoa sector, and Ghanaian students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Hinkson says that the interactive and highly educational meeting gave the students the opportunity to test the issues that formed the basis of their research in an informal and welcoming setting.

The King’s group spent their second day in Kokofu, the spiritual and ancestral home of the Asante Confederation, which is one of the best-known Indigenous governance institutions in Africa. The confederation’s governance system is matrilineal and built around Queen Mothers and elderly women. Tieku says that funerals are particularly significant, displaying the social, cultural and political aspects of the Ghanian society. The Canadian visitors used their attendance at the funeral of Ex-Kokofuhemaa Nana Adwoa Pinamang, the former Queen Mother of Kokofu, as a gateway to understand the significance of the Chieftaincy system in contemporary Ghanaian politics, and the interaction between formal and informal governance structures. They met Omanhene, the Paramount Chief or King of the Kokofu Traditional Area, and sub-chiefs of the Kokofu Traditional Area to discuss the role of chiefs in Ghana’s development, including in poverty alleviation, dispute settlement, mediation, peace building and environmental protection.

Day Three was in Wassa Akropong with cocoa farmers, along with a cross section of stakeholders in the cocoa industry: teachers, agriculture extension farmers, cocoa purchasing clerks, a local councillor, and a representative from the cocoa marketing board. The group discussion brought out most of the key issues in both cocoa and chocolate value chains, such as local agricultural practices, gender inequality, cocoa pricing, poverty, impacts of small-scale artisanal mining on the cocoa industry and on the environment, child’s work, and the processes that makes Ghana’s cocoa considered the premium for cocoa produced in the chocolate value chain. Two students, Hannah Mankulich and Kaygen Dache, planted two cocoa trees named King’s Cocoa at Awurade Naye Bioh Farms. Tieku and students Ashley Vanderkuylen and Joshua Masters were guests on a local radio station to talk about their experiences interacting with local stakeholders in the cocoa value chain.

“My favourite part of this trip was definitely meeting the cocoa farmers and getting to know how they feel about issues pertaining to the cocoa supply chain and their role in it,” Rishita Shukla, a fourth-year student in Politics & International Relations and English.

On Day Four, the group travelled to Elubo, in the westernmost part of Ghana, where they received briefings from the border officials including the Commander of Immigration Services and the leadership of the customs authorities at the border of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. During this time, they learned about the protocol on free movement of goods and people, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa.

The group took advantage of Elubo’s location to walk from the Ghana border to the border of Côte d'Ivoire, then visited UNESCO World Heritage Site Nzulezo-Stilt Village, where they learned about the migration patterns of the people in the border areas as well as the natural resource challenges in border towns.

Day Five was in Cape Coast, where they toured Elmina Castle and learned about the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its enduring impacts on the contemporary world, especially transatlantic relations. Hinkson says that the visit gave the students a sense of perspective and allowed the group to “place the issues that the students were studying in its proper historical context by exploring Africa’s interaction with the Americas from the 15th century through the slave trade and colonial eras, to the contemporary period.”

November 2, Day Six of the Ghana trip, was dedicated to a writing workshop where students consulted with professors about the state of their research. Tieku says that the students also had an opportunity to put the negotiation theories and strategies they had learned in the classroom into practice by engaging in bargaining with local vendors.

The King’s group’s final two days were back in Accra, the capital, where they discussed the issues they had heard about during their visit with high-level officials in key government ministries. They visited the Ghana National Cocoa Processing Company and attended presentations from the company led by the company’s managing director. They learned about the processes required to turn cocoa into cocoa-based products. The question-and-answer period included a conversation about the movement of cocoa in the value chain and the challenges with attracting foreign direct investment into the industry in Ghana. They met with the chief executive of COCOBOD, the Ghana Cocoa Board, where they talked about issues including foreign direct investment, child work/labour, gender equity, mining, pricing, competition, and the challenges of exporting of cocoa-based products. The group ended the day with a meeting with representatives from the Canadian High Commission.

November 4, Day Eight, included briefings from the key bureaus and departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration led by the acting Chief Director of the Ministery. Students learned more about the UN, the African Union, ECOWAS, AfCFTA (the African Continental Free Trade Area), and Ghana’s bilateral relations with the Americas with the focus on Ghana-Canada relations. The group ended their experiential learning trip with a visit to the Office of the President, where they talked about the intersections of formal, informal, and indigenous governance structures and the global value chain of natural resources.

The group were back in Canada on November 6. Shukla says, “I came back with such an amazing outlook on Ghana and the people there. I am really appreciative of all the effort Dr. Tieku and Dr. Hannah put in to make this experience possible!”

Hinkson, along with Graham, both graduated from King’s in June with Honours Specialization in Political Science degrees. Both are currently earning their master’s degrees at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University. Hinkson has been on two previous experiential learning trips and says that she loved being able to “mentor and befriend the next generation of King’s students. Making memories with the students and the professors made the experience a highlight in my life.” She added, “What surprised me were the relationships that I was able to make with the Ghanaian community. It truly feels like a home away from home for me, and I can’t wait to go back!”