“When you talk of Ghana’s chocolate, resistance is futile: just a bite to fuel the heart.”
Mabel Delassie Awuku
Some years passed, I was sent by my brother to get chocolates, a card and perfume to be gifted to his special lady on valentine’s day. After having to do that, I realized he had no money to pick a car to deliver the gifts hence subjected us both to walking from Dansoman to Kaneshie to impress his girlfriend regardless of his financial challenges.
You will find such commitments, sacrifices and selfless gestures around this time even though others see it as being for the perverse, promiscuous, and the bad guys.
While putting this piece together, I licked my lips in anticipation of the National Chocolate Day which is celebrated on the 14th of February every year and doubles as Valentine’s day: A day for lovers to rekindle their love and relationships, in no better way than with chocolates.
Valentine commenced with the early Christian martyr named Valentine, a generous giver whose deeds touched lives and further acknowledged by Pope Gelasius I, in 500 AD.
The Ghanaian society adopted this celebration having people clad in red as a sign to recognize the day which records a high boost in sales of teddy bears, cakes, wines of all classes, pieces of jewelry, flowers, perfumes and chocolates to express love to friends/ families and loved ones.
On this day, everybody male or female anticipates to receive and give to their love ones.
A boost undoubtedly in economic activities on the day involving all facets of workers. The driver chauffeur’s lovers around to places of interest, the trader and business person has an increased sale of wares be it teddy bear, perfume, chocolate etc. Bars and amusement areas also have their shares to cash-in on the occasion.
In 2013, Ghana web carried a news piece that indicates high pregnancies related to Valentine and also heaps of negative vices, increased illicit and amorous affairs that created marital tensions in homes across the country as concubines of married men also struggled for space and recognition.
In the boarding house at school, it was an unhealthy competition among students to prove to colleagues their worth to their boyfriends hence, the size of your Val’s day card and gifts determines who has the day. This mostly compelled most students to buy gifts for themselves and post it to themselves to feel belonged and join in the fun else be referred to as gnashing.
Governments’ interventions over the years have brought up a different twist to the celebrations, giving prominence to cocoa and chocolate products dubbed “NATIONAL CHOCOLATE DAY” aimed at projecting Ghana’s chocolates, increasing sales of chocolates, as well as ensure healthy choices while expressing love.
Ghana’s Cocoa History is tied to a blacksmith named Tetteh Quashie who traveled to a Spanish colony Fernando Po (now Bioko in Equatorial Guinea). On his return to Ghana after six years, he came with Cocoa bean and had since made history. The cocoa crop known to mature in 3 to 5 years, has earned Ghana so many economic returns and also a robust cocoa history being the world’s largest and best cocoa producer in the early 1960s.
Over the years, production had dwindled but Ghana has since kept its better quality cocoa production performance even though there is a very competitive market where you can find other countries such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon producing 50 percent of the Worlds Cocoa.
From our Cocoa proceeds, Ghana processes chocolates in varied shapes, sizes, tastes, flavors, and forms ranging from 73% dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, fruit-flavored chocolate, mocha latte (coffee flavor) chocolate, and bissap (hibiscus flavor) chocolate, with almonds, sea salt and coconut flavoring added upon request.
Cocoa Marketing Company, the sole official state-owned cocoa exporter in Ghana, has placed on our shelves the Golden Tree, Kingsbite premium cocoa bar made without any blending, Akuafo bar, Coffee Choc, Oranco, Portem Nut, Portem Pride, and Tetteh Quarshie.
Owing to the immense health benefit derived from chocolate, the Government proposed and instituted the celebration of Chocolate Day to increase the production, consumption, and sale of all cocoa products especially chocolate to give it more visibility and prominence for nutritional gains and health prospects.
Chocolates according to scientist contains anti-oxidants that helps the body to repair and prevent cells from free radical damage, reduce blood pressure, mainly good for cardiovascular health, and has the potency in spicing up relationships.
According to the American heart foundation, dark chocolates are high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.
As we mark the National Chocolate day on Monday 14th February 2022, on the theme: “EAT CHOCOLATE, STAY HEALTHY, GROW GHANA” we must all endeavor to join in the week-long National Chocolate Day celebration which starts with a Health Walk at the Aburi Mountains with subsequent activities such as Poetry Night, Cook-off, Old School Night, Presentation to the Chief Imam at Kanda, School tour in selected basic schools, Family Day, Health Talk in selected churches, Chocolate Day at Dubai Expo, Float with Accra City Tour and a movie premier (Tetteh Quarshie) at the Silver Bird cinema. The celebration is a means to encourage Ghanaians to start a habit of consuming chocolates often to derive and tap-into the health benefits it provides.
Today, I am glad to celebrate this day as a mother and introduce my children to join in the celebration as the table has turned, bringing on several profitable activities to mark the day in memory.
Prudent to keep in thought that, as we gift to love and enjoy the day, we do for the growth and development of Ghana which would positively impact lives and encourage a holistic benefit by all.
The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture wishes all a Happy chocolate day.
The writer is a staff of the Information Services Department (ISD).