I feel somehow differently about my return to Africa this time around. I’ve only been away for about six months, so it kind of feels like I took a journey and now I’m back home. Also, this huge endeavor called Atacora has been going on for some years now, and there is a lot of continuity in what I’ve come to do. I really do love it here, and the experience is developing a nice patina.
I landed in Ghana, and had a few days before a meeting I scheduled with a shipping company who we’ve worked with a lot in the past. I got some badly needed rest and hung out with some really nice friends both at their beach house in Kokrobité and in vibrant, fun Accra. Ghanain food is really great, and I ate my fill of fufu with palm nut soup and kinké with pepper and fried fish. Yum!
Masta, our intrepid driver and good buddy, met me at the border in Lomé, Togo, and we headed North through Togo instead of going all the way over to Benin as we usually do, before going upcountry. The ride was long and bumpy, but that’s simply the way it always is. We got to Boukombé at night to a great welcome from Jacob and his family, as well as the rest of the neighborhood where Atacora Benin has its headquarters. Seroiusly tired at this point, but jetlag made my body feel like it was the middle of the day, so sleep was elusive. In fact, I’ve never had such terrible jetlag in my life. I did not fully adjust for about ten days…feeling sleepy in the middle of the day and wide awake at night.
I had a few days before the arrival of the Ecocert Inspector. I usually have to immediately correct massive screw-ups in documentation and field practice, but this time was different. The office was a bees’ nest of activity and everything was really well organized. Jacob had things so under control that I would have been a major nuisance, I think. We really have come a long way! I just figured that some problems would inevitably arise during inspection, and that I have plenty of experience fixing them, so let ‘er rip!
It is super nice to be back with the Ghanaba family…to have lots of kids to play with and shower with little presents (Thanx Melissa and Heaven!). I never feel lonely here like I often do in the States. My French is all sharpened up and my Ditammari is in fine shape. Deep breath…it’s inspection time, and we have more than 800 producers this year!
There were a couple of bummers just after I arrived. Our truck is still broken down, and once again, the company dog got sick and died. We have bad luck in these departments. Other than that, we are good to go!
We got a different Inspector this year. Mr. Amana is Togolese, and quite a bit older than the guy from the last two years. He has a very warm way about him, and makes the village producers feel comfortable, which is a welcome relief. He spent many years in rural agricultural production, so can really empathize with our situation. His advice is really wise, and we learn a lot from him. We’ve become good pals!
The baobab and moringa producer inspections have been going well. Sure, there are a good number who still just can’t quite grasp the best organic practices, but the good news is our staff detected every problem and wrote them down prior to inspection! This is an enormous sign of progress, and is great for big brownie points with Amana! So far, so good!
On a side note, we are currently offering 15% off all bulk products. We have recently brought to the states Virgin Red Palm Oil, Moringa Leaf Powder, African Honey, Unrefined Shea Butter, and our course Baobab Powder and Oil.
Please check back for updates!