Our Divine rider completes the course – in Condor style

22 May 2013

She did it!!! Here’s Sara’s post after completing the whole MITIE Revolution 180 miles over the weekend…

OK. I had planned to get this blog done on Monday but the aftermath of completing a 180 mile bike ride (yes we did it!) was more than I’d anticipated. Apart from my achy bits and creeky knee which decided to give up 5 miles before the end of the MITIE London Revolution ride  (it made for an interesting cycling technique), I’ve had a general feeling of complete disorientation. More like having been on the moon for 2 days rather than London’s home-counties. And dare I say it, a sense of sadness that it’s all over, even though I had wished that very thing on more than one occasion over the weekend!

All set to start

All set to start

It’s funny coming out the other side. As I unpacked I realised that I had momentarily lost my mind in preparation for the ride. My extra supplies of food ‘just in case’ were ridiculous. So now we have cupboards full of peanuts, crisps, biscuits, chocolates and sweet drinks (my daughter Isla thinks all of her Christmases have come at once). And I had to find a home for my giant tub of Vaseline. Not to mention all the sweaty lycra to deal with – items that seem a bit alien now the ride is over.

Finishing on day 1 and 2

Finishing on day 1 and 2

But it was definitely an incredible event  to be part of and memorable in so many ways. Peddling a beautiful Condor bike was a joy (and life-saver!). The feeling of camaraderie with other cyclists and the Revolution staff kept everyone going; camping at Windsor racecourse was surreal; I got to experience the beauty of London’s home-counties as I’ve never done before, and I got the pleasure of my brother’s company for 2 days. We made good cycling partners, although I spent more time than I’d ever imagined possible in my life staring at his backside!

Camping at Windsor Racecourse

Camping at Windsor Racecourse

The sense of achievement is something to cherish too. The endless hills on day 2 didn’t break me (including Tandridge Hill for those who know this particular beasty) and I can proudly say I rode every one without pushing the bike. A small dream was realised when we made it to the top of Box Hill too. It was all unexpectedly … enjoyable. Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely. But not next week.

Reaching the top of Box Hill!

Reaching the top of Box Hill!

So a big thanks to Revolution Rides  and Condor Cycles for making this possible, Divine Chocolate for fuelling the riders with delicious chocolate, and for all the encouragement of friends and family and unlikely sponsors for showing their support.

Divine breakfast!

Divine breakfast!

I couldn’t end this blog without sharing a little confession to Condor Cycles . Despite my best efforts, that racing saddle never did come on the ride with me. A few necessary modifications were made in that department and my faithful saddle for many a commute came instead. As they say, you can take the commuter out for a cycle, but you can’t take the commuter out of the cyclist. Or something like that.

A saddle too far

A saddle too far

Sara, her new Italian lover & the lunch of shame

17 May 2013

Here’s Sara’s last post before she cycles off into the distance! 

Crikey – my last post before the MITIE London Revolution ride after a couple of days of getting to know my new Condor Italia. I hadn’t anticipated a summer romance this year (well any year actually) but I think I’m falling in love with this Italian.

Sara's new Italian love

Sara’s new Italian love

Aside from the fact that it looks incredible, it’s unbelievably light (I can literally lift it up with one finger) and has the most amazing gears which change without the merest suggestion of effort. I’m suddenly filled with confidence about Box Hill and some of the other slightly alarming looking hills on the Day 2 profile. In fact I glide up Croombs Hills with such ease now, it’s not so much the prospect of the circuit that’s making my eyes water any more, but the prospect of completing it on a wafer thin racing saddle! I’m definitely a commuter in this department. Sorry Claire (I have tried) and thank you Sonja for the nice padded gel cover.

Other than upping my laps of GreenwichPark, my training schedule has involved upping my calorie intake. This has been an unexpected fringe benefit of riding 180 miles in 2 days. My ‘lunch of shame’ was snapped by my incredulous boss (it was my second lunch of the day) and my chocolate covered Brazil nut and new Divine Caramel bar consumption has gone through the roof! I’m going to miss my guilt-free munchies next week.

Sara and her lunch of shame

Sara and her lunch of shame

I couldn’t start the ride without thanking everyone for their generous sponsorship  and introducing you to ‘Team Divine’ who will be doing the 2 day circuit with me. The pit crew, Tony and Isla, will be following us around the circuit with back-up supplies, chocolate samples and my old saddle just in case! And my brother Cameron will be riding with me. He was the only person I knew other than my husband who would be up for registering for a 2 day cycling event just as the training schedule had ended.

Tony and Isla test driving the Condor

Tony and Isla test driving the Condor

So what’s left for today? I’ve made my ‘to do’ and packing lists – a surprising amount to do and bring before a crack of dawn start tomorrow.


1. Collection of my repair kit from the Post Office.

2. A crash course in changing an inner-tube from Team Divine’s chief engineer (Tony).

3. One last trip to the Divineoffice to pick up some chocolate samples and Usherette tray for all the deserved cyclists at the Windsor Racecourse on Saturday night (look out for the woman in the Divine t-shirt walking like John Wayne).


1. A giant tub of Vaseline!

Et Viola. I’ll be all set. See you on the other side!

Sara will be tweeting her way around the MITIE Revolution Race from @dubblehq

Can you help Sara raise money for a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

15 May 2013

Sara isn’t just cycling 180 miles with MITIE Revolution for fun – she’s also aiming to raise money for the next Kuapa Kokoo kids camp. Here’s a post about how you could help…

I’m fundraising for a Kuapa Kids Camp, being held from 11th-13th July 2013 in Kumasi, Ghana.

Taking part in a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

Taking part in a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

The Kuapa Kids Camps are residential camps for young people from rural cocoa growing areas organised by Trading Visions in collaboration with Kuapa Kokoo.  Trading Visions is an educational charity set up by Divine to amplify the voice of cocoa farmers in West Africa, and particularly to link young people in Ghana with their contemporaries here to learn more about issues at either end of the supply chain.

The Kids Camps are brilliant for boosting the confidence and educational attainment of the students. They also help to energise their schools by increasing the active participation of teachers, parents and the local community in the schools.

Getting stuck into a Kids Camp project

Getting stuck into a Kids Camp project

We also use the Kids Camps to work with the children in Ghana to help create educational materials on Fairtrade chocolate for young people in the UK.

At the next Kuapa Kids Camp, around 70 children from rural cocoa growing families will be coming together for three days, many of them leaving their villages and mixing with children from other schools for the first time.

They learn about Fairtrade and their role in the global chocolate supply chain, and issues such as nutrition, child labour, health, and girls’ education.

The Kids Camp cost will be £7,000. The Hull Fairtrade City Project has pledged £2,000 to help fund it, plus another £1,500 of match funding for any money we raise.

Please help by donating to this important education project for children living in rural farming villages in Ghana.  Click here for my fundraising page.

Thank you!

Sara gets a rather super bike – MITIE Revolution post no.2

15 May 2013

Dubble‘s Sara Barron with her second post as she prepares to cycle 180 miles this weekend with Mitie Revolution and goes to Condor Bikes to pick up the bike they are lending her for the event….

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the Condor shop this morning. I’ve never been ‘fitted’ for a bike before. It was actually quite physical. More like being at the osteopath’s than a bike shop. Once I’d stretched and rolled my head around, James had the task of talking me through various adjustments, gears and body positioning. We established that I had wonky shoulders and longer than average legs (I never heard that before!) although I wasn’t sure if the size of the seat was an indication of being larger than average in other areas.

James at Condor sorting out a bike for me

James at Condor sorting out a bike for me

Once fitted, Claire checked my tyre pressure and attached my bottle cages. I was intrigued to hear about the history of Condor as she worked on the bike. They design all of their bikes in London as they have done for the past 60 years, and they continue to produce all of their frames by hand in Italy. It struck me and how akin the values of Condor  and Divine Chocolate actually are – basically, no compromise on quality or ethics in favour of cheaper products.

Claire took me through the last few items on my checklist. We talked about the merits of various performance gels (baffling) and soon established I wouldn’t need any given the banana fuelled pit-stops along the MITIE Revolution circuit. She gave me a supply of inner tubes and a multi-tool and with some good luck well wishes I was sent on my way. With the bike!

Despite the fact that I REALLY hate cycling in the City I managed to navigate my way safely from Gray’s Inn Road, along Chancery Lane and Cheapside and over London Bridge back to the office. I have to say that I’m over the moon with the Condor Italia in my possession. Claire couldn’t have picked me a better partner and I’m itching to get to know it better on a more familiar and quieter ride along the Thames when I head home this evening.

Sara with her Condor near our offices

Sara with her Condor near our offices

Our Divine cyclist at Revolution this weekend – post no.1

13 May 2013

Sara Barron (Dubble HQ Online and Product Manager here at Divine) is getting ready to complete the Revolution ride this weekend – here’s her first post….

Sara Barron before the upgrade!

Sara Barron before the upgrade (the bike I mean)!

When Tal told me about Divine’s sponsorship of the Mitie London Revolution cycle ride this year my ears pricked up. But when she asked me if I wanted to do it as one of Divine’s ‘keen cyclists’ my initial thought was ‘Am I?’. Yes, I cycle to work every day come rain or shine and yes I love it but I’ve always thought of myself as a commuter rather than a cyclist. I actually avoid roads and other cyclists as much as possible on my commute along the Thames Path from Greenwich to Tower Bridge. I don’t own lycra shorts or any other cycling gear, apart from a helmet and some toe clips (which my husband bought me for Mother’s Day). And my bike is only still roadworthy due to the constant vigilance of my husband who frequently disappears into his shed with it and emerges with something that doesn’t squeak and feels 10 times more comfortable to ride. But even he declared it ‘unfit for purpose’ when I floated the idea of a 180 mile bike ride past him.

Tal brushed these reservations aside and told me to go ahead with my training programme, get the necessary gear and she would sort out a bike. Low and behold a collection of parcels of new equipment – including lycra shorts – are piling up at home, and today our lovely friends at Condor Cycles told us they have a bike ready for collection which they are generously loaning me for the summer. Incredible!

Lizzie at Mitie London Revolution  took care of my last minute registration, and so here I am on Monday afternoon with the prospect of a 180 mile bike ride ahead of me at the weekend. That too is incredible!

I have a knot in my stomach. I can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of completing this iconic circuit on an iconic bike. But so far the extent of my hill climb training for Box Hill (which despite my commuter mentality I’ve always had a secret passion to cycle) has involved a few circuits of Greenwich Park and Croombes Hill en route to work. A sense of competitive determination to finish the course in a decent time and enjoy the ride is bubbling up. I’m just hoping my old bike is the only thing that’s ‘unfit for purpose’.

What Divine did for Fairtrade Fortnight – a pop up chocolate shop story

19 April 2013
The Divine Pop Up Shop

The Divine Pop Up Shop

Click here to see  a lovely short film packed with all the fun we had during Fairtrade Fortnight – our pop shop in Covent Garden, visits to BudgensWhole Foods and Oxfam with Kuapa farmers Mary and Esther – and lots of chocolate tasting…. and dancing

A story of cocoa farmers in London

14 March 2013

As well as offering a fantastic range of chocolate, Divine is here to give cocoa farmers a voice – and it’s so great to see the relish with which they take up that opportunity each Fairtrade Fortnight!

Mary & Esther

Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim at Kuapa HQ

This year we were delighted to host a visit by Kuapa Kokoo members Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim – both from the Western Region of Ghana, and both first time travellers to UK.  Mary is 60, and comes from Enchi where she has a 7.5 acre farm. She’s been a member of Kuapa Kokoo for 6 years.  Esther is 28, from Agyedum, and her family farm is 38 acres. She’s been a Kuapa member for 8 years.

As you can imagine, arriving in the freezing cold, and emerging from the plane in Heathrow Terminal 5 is quite overwhelming!  But Mary and Esther not only took everything in their stride, but were open for all experiences and interested in everything they saw and heard.  We had a very busy schedule arranged for them – ensuring they addressed really diverse audiences, and in turn discovered as much as possible about the UK chocolate market they supply (and lots of sight-seeing too).

Sampling Divine at Liberty's chocolate shop

Sampling Divine at Liberty’s chocolate shop

The farmers attended Fairtrade events at St Mary le Bow Church, at St Paul’s Cathedral, in Crystal Palace, and in Haringay – telling audiences about their lives, about the impact Fairtrade and owning Divine has had on them and their fellow members, and their hopes for the future.They toured a real mix of shops where Divine is stocked – delighting customers who weren’t expecting to meet cocoa farmers when they bought their chocolate – from Liberty’s to Budgens in Crouch End, and Whole Foods to Oxfam in Covent Garden.


Esther and Mary visit Oxfam in Drury Lane

 8thMarch is InternationalWomen’s Day – and once again the Kuapa farmers were given the opportunity to participate in the international Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the Southbank Centre – amongst amazing women from all backgrounds and circumstances.Primary school St Barnabus in Tunbridge Wells, and Imperial College and Royal College of Art all hosted lovely events where Mary and Esther narrated a film showing how cocoa is grown, harvested and prepared to ensure it is “pa pa paa” and answered many questions about how belonging to Kuapa Kokoo has changed their lives.  We also visited Hadlow College where Esther and Mary were able to share knowledge and experience with a whole theatre of farming students, including many international students from Africa.  We were given a tour of the College farm – and the size of all the animals amazed them!

Esther & Mary visit the lambing shed at Hadlow College

Esther & Mary visit the lambing shed at Hadlow College

Last – but absolutely not least – Esther and Mary were very special guests at our fantastic Pop Up Shop in Monmouth Street WC2 – talking to customers, speaking at our discussion event “Can smallholder farmers save the world?”, and throwing some shapes at our fabulous free Azonto dance sessions – the Ghanaian dance craze sweeping the world.

We were very sorry to see them go (but they were extremely glad to miss the sudden big dip in temperature!).  They said everywhere they went how proud they were to be here and to be representing their co-operative – and that their very presence here was a demonstration of how things were changing for cocoa farmers.  They loved fish & chips, but hated escalators, they were amazed by Tower Bridge and the fact it could open, and blown away by the size of the Thames. They were delighted by the glimpses of countryside through the train window on the way to Kent, and impressed by buildings, roads, and automatically opening doors.

They will be taking all their experiences back with them – and most importantly the impression that growing cocoa is worthwhile, that we in UK love chocolate, and everyone they met loved Divine.  In turn they have inspired so many more people here to support Fairtrade and to cherish and value the favourite foods we buy – especially chocolate!

Esther dances Azonto at the Divine Pop Up

Esther dances Azonto at the Divine Pop Up

Fairtrade Fortnight offers at the supermarkets

18 February 2013

pile of bars_smallBecause it’s Fairtrade Fortnight we’ve set up some fabulous special offers at the supermarkets. Here are all the details!

Sainsbury’s: It’s buy two bars for £3 on all 100g bars at Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s stocks our dark chocolate with raspberries, 85%, 70%, ginger & orange chocolate and our milk chocolate bars. The offer is on now until 5th March.

Tesco: There’s 25% off all our 100g bars at Tesco. Tesco stocks our 70%, ginger & orange chocolate, dark chocolate with raspberries and our white chocolate with strawberries. The offer is on from 27th February until 26th March.

Waitrose: There’s 25% off all our 100g bars at Waitrose. Waitrose stocks the following flavours: 85%, ginger & orange chocolate, white chocolate with strawberries, milk chocolate, orange chocolate, 70% and dark chocolate with raspberries. The offer is on now until 12th March.

A meeting of co-operatives – The Co-op and Suma visit Kuapa Kokoo

13 February 2013

Here’s Divine’s Wendy Rowan reporting on her first trip to Ghana:

Saturday 19th January

We left a snow bound London to arrive in Accra at 10.30 at night with the temperature at a humid 32 degrees. The heat just hits you, right there, at the back of the throat, taking your breath away. Immigration procedure was long and tortuous in the non air-conditioned airport terminal – embarkation cards completed, signed & handed over, iris recognition image scanned, finger prints taken, yellow fever inoculation certificate checked. Our driver was waiting in arrivals and we sped away for our first night in Ghana at the Airside Hotel. 

Lots of these little chaps at our hotel

Lots of these little chaps at our hotel

We were a party of five – myself and my colleague Alistair Menzies from Divine Chocolate, Jenny Dixon and Rachael Gray from The Co-operative and Jenny Carlyle from Suma, the wholefood wholesaler worker’s co-operative in Elland, Yorkshire.

Sunday 20th January

Sunday morning we were up with the cockerels and breakfasted in the Zara restaurant. A splendid buffet catered for everyone’s tastes and offered a delicious choice from fresh pineapple & papaya to rice and spicy beef curry.

Today was going to be a leisurely day visiting tourist attractions and making our way to Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. We were collected by our drivers who were going to accompany us on the whole trip – Enoch, Joe and Abdulai.

The forbidding door leading to a holding room for slaves at Elmina Castle

We set off westward to Elmina Castle. Built by the Portuguese traders in the late 1400’s, the castle was built to protect the gold trade. But following its capture by the Dutch in 1637, it came to serve the Dutch slave trade with Brazil and the Caribbean. The Castle housed luxury suites on the upper levels for the European governor, traders and soldiers. The slave dungeons below were cramped, dark and filthy cells housing up to 600 men and 400 women at a time. The governor could look down from his balcony on to the courtyard where the women slaves would be lined up and he could choose his companion for the night. At the seaboard side of the castle was the infamous “Door of No Return” through which the slaves passed through one by one to board to waiting ships that would take them on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic. Over three centuries it is estimated that 60 million slaves were captured with only 20 million surviving capture, imprisonment and the journey to the New World. We all knew something about the slave trade but to see where the slaves were imprisoned in dark, dank, squalid conditions brought home the true horrors endured by Africans for three centuries.

We continued 4 kilometres from the coast to the Hans Cottage Botel where we stopped for lunch. Holiday cottages and a restaurant situated in a lagoon which is home to crocodiles, turtles and many birds. Although the crocodiles are said to be friendly, we weren’t going to risk getting too close and stuck to taking photos from behind the safety of the wall.  We were however, very adventurous with our choice of food and all opted for the Ghanaian traditional fayre of beans, rice and fried plantain. And very tasty it was too.

A big smile from the croc

A big smile from the croc

Next stop was the Kakum Rainforest National Park. Here a 40m canopy walkway suspended between trees gives a breathtaking view of the forest. We shared the experience with a group of ladies and gents in their Sunday best – men in their brightly coloured printed shirts and the ladies beautiful in their colourful traditional African dresses. And with a gaggle of giggling Ghanaian girls on a church trip out to the forest wilds all dressed up in their trendy, western Sunday best. A 20 minute climb through the moist & humid forest, passing indigenous trees which were hundreds of years old and accompanied by the sounds of cicadas brings you to a wooden platform. From here you step on to the walkway – a narrow wooden plank suspended by rope and netting and underpinned by a few steel bars. At the circular tree house there was a choice to be the adventurer and do 7 more walkways or take it easy and do just 3 more or as I did, take the scaredy-cat option and go back the way we came and get on to terra firma as soon as possible. Exhilarated after our adventure, it was then back on the road for the 4 hour journey to Kumasi along the “B” road – a long and winding dirt road, deep rusty

Kakun Aerial Walkway

Kakun Aerial Walkway

red in colour with plenty of pot holes. Either side of the road was forest vegetation – plantain, banana, papaya and palm trees and road side vendors selling their home-grown produce – water melons, pineapples, oranges, lemons, coconuts and freshly fried plantain chips. We passed villages with unstructured layouts bustling with activity and always with a cleared level area for the football pitch with goal posts either end. We were happy to at last to arrive at Kumasi and check in to the Rees Hotel, where we could revive our hot & dusty selves. We ate in the hotel that evening a mixture of European and Ghanaian dishes.

Monday 21st January

Refreshed and well rested, we met up early morning for an unusual breakfast – spring onion omelette with cold baked beans and 4 triangles of barely toasted, sweet white bread. Surprisingly tasty.

Collected by our trusty drivers we headed from the hotel to Kuapa Kokoo offices where we met up with Francis who was going to be our translator and Vincent who was in charge of taking photos & video recording. Kuapa Kokoo is the co-operative of cocoa farmers who grow all the cocoa which goes in to making Divine Chocolate – and own 45% of the company.

The ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi has a population of 1.5 million and judging by the gridlocked roads, the same number of cars. It took time and patience to drive out of the city, the roads noisy with horns tooting and nose to tail with yellow painted taxis, motor bikes, seriously large 4 by 4’s, tro tros – the Ghanaian equivalent of the mini bus, with passengers sardined inside and outside packed high with all their belongings  – goats included tied to the roofs.

The city sprawls on forever with a ramshackle shanty town – dwellings fronted by trading posts selling everything from car engines, doors, coffins, beds, carpets to all manner of electrical appliances. And all along the carriage way are street sellers offering their wares to the hot & frustrated drivers – bags of cooled water, refreshing coconuts, snacks, pieces of  water melon, handkerchiefs, sim cards, loaves of bread, all displayed beautifully in baskets and bowls carried securely and proudly on the head.

Here we all are at Amankwatia

Here we all are at Amankwatia

Eventually the landscape changed to a more rural setting and we turned off the main road and arrived at Amankwatia village. In 2010 to celebrate 5 years of sourcing cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo for their own label Truly Irresistible range of chocolate, The Co-operative co-funded with Kuapa Kokoo the building  of a new Junior High School. Jenny & Rachael from The Co-op were here to see how the school was doing and how it was benefitting the 13-19 year old students from Amankwatia and the surrounding villages. We were welcomed in to the village with singing and hand clapping by about 50 cocoa farmers who had given up their time to greet us. We were introduced to the Recorder Samuel Antwi, the society secretary, the village chief who was also a member of Kuapa, and Adwoa Asianaa he oldest cocoa farmer at 83 years- a feisty lady who looked half her age and who had harvested 20 bags of cocoa that season –   and the youngest at 42 years. As well as the school, the benefits to the village for being members of Kuapa Kokoo and co-owning Divine Chocolate have been the installation of a corn mill, solar panels for electricity, and machetes for each farmer – a vital tool for the harvesting of cocoa. And an opportunity for the women to learn new skills to supplement their income – tie dying and soap making with the cocoa pod husks.

Jenny from Suma learns how to crack open a cocoa pod

Jenny from Suma learns how to crack open a cocoa pod

We took a short walk out of the village in to the forest where the cocoa trees grow amongst the orange and papaya trees. It’s near the end of the season and the weather has been unseasonably hot but there were still pods ripening. We were shown how to harvest a cocoa pod – with care and diligence so as not to damage the trunk, how to slice it open with the machete and remove the beans. We all got a taste of the sweet white flesh surrounding the bean. The farmers work as one team, harvesting, fermenting and drying the beans together going from one farm to the next in what is known in Twi as “ Nnoboa” – you help me and I’ll help you & let’s work together. Having read how it’s done, seen the films on how it’s done, and heard the farmers tell me how it’s done, it was wonderful to actually be part  of the harvest and an honour to be presented with a freshly harvested, weighty cocoa pod.

Returning to the village we met the school’s headmaster and were introduced to the senior class. The students were shy

It's really useful to have a bike

It’s really useful to have a bike

so what better way to break the ice than to ask them to do a bit of Azonto dancing for us! Two willing dancers soon got the class clapping and laughing. On a more serious note, one of the students, 19 years old and luckily still in education, said how much he would love a bicycle to make his 6 mile journey to and from the school a little easier. Many of the students come from neighbouring cocoa growing villages and the time it takes for the journey impacts on their learning time.

Time to say our goodbyes and thank the villagers for their hospitality with gifts of Co-op T shirts, pens and pencils for the students and soaps for the ladies.

On route back to Kumasi we stopped off at the regional depot where all the sacks of cocoa are delivered, weighed, recorded, graded and then loaded on to a truck for shipment to the port of Tema. Rachael from the Co-op, in her role as technical & quality manager was full of praise for the efficient and accurate traceability systems in place.

A dinner hosted by Kuapa staff and members of the Farmers Union was a lovely end to a fabulous day.

Tuesday 22nd January

In the morning we went to the Kuapa Farmer’s Union offices where Esther presented the history and mission of Kuapa Kokoo to give us a first-hand understanding of the workings of the co-operative. We also had the pleasure of meeting members of the NEC – National Executive Committee, the elected members of the farmer’s union. It was a pleasure to meet up with old friends – Elias Mohammed who had come to the UK for Fairtrade Fortnight in 2012 and who I’d had the honour of accompanying around Scotland, and Fatima Ali who I had been with in Cardiff in 2011.

IMG_1253We then headed off to New Koforidua, a village which serves as a centre to a community of 5,200 people. Here the school was funded by the Fairtrade premium and the community house was funded by The Co-operative. The community house serves as a meeting place, library and conference centre. We were welcomed by Walter Alifo, the headmaster and driving force behind the success of the village, and cocoa farmers from the villages and all the students. New Koforidua is a fine example of the benefits of Fairtrade as it is not only twinned with Garstang in Lancashire, the first UK Fairtrade town but is also calls itself the first Fairtrade village in Africa. Important visitors are given the honour of planting sapling cocoa trees outside the community centre – trees planted by  Brad Hill from The Co-operative in 2010 and Sophi Tranchell the MD at Divine Chocolate in 2012 are growing tall & strong. Now the honour fell to Jenny from Suma to plant her sapling. May all the trees flourish and produce a good harvest.

It was photo opportunity time with students putting on this year’s Comic Relief Red Noses and posing with giant Dubble bars – and throwing Divine chocolate coins up in the air to encourage everyone in the UK to “Do Something Funny for Money “ this Red Nose Day.  

We had also been given books to distribute which written & illustrated by the students from Surbiton High School. These were very well received and the students were full of admiration for the wonderful illustrations. We lunched under the shade of the trees and admired the village, the school and community centre. And then it was time to say our goodbyes and head to Kumasi airport and on to the winter cold & snow of the UK.

Women welcoming us to Amankwatia

Women welcoming us to Amankwatia

I have worked for Divine Chocolate for nearly six years and during that time have met a few of the cocoa farmers on their visits to the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight and have heard their stories, and learnt a great deal about cocoa production and the global cocoa & chocolate industry. Actually visiting Ghana and seeing for myself how Fairtrade and farmer-ownership have improved the lives of cocoa farmers at first-hand has been an enlightening experience. Seeing the benefits of trading fairly and investing in the health and education of the next generation has made me more determined to make sure Divine is the chocolate bar of choice for all of us chocolate lovers.

Kuapa Kokoo salutes the great work of Gordon Roddick

22 January 2013
Gordon Roddick receives the Citation from Kuapa Kokoo

Gordon Roddick receives the Citation from Kuapa Kokoo

The Body Shop founders, Gordon Roddick and his late wife Anita, played one of the most crucial parts in Divine Chocolate‘s birth – not only by believing in and promoting this new kind of business model where farmers have a significant stake in the company, but in giving the real and immediate commercial support needed to get it off the ground.

Gordon Roddick continued to support Divine Chocolate, sitting on the Board for 11 years, and seeing his vision bear fruit.  He retired from our Board this year – and Kuapa Kokoo made sure of a fitting tribute to him to show the appreciation of the farmer members for his invaluable help and influence over so many years.

In true Ghanaian style, a citation was created for him – and it was presented to him on behalf of Kuapa Kokoo last week by Divine Chocolate’s MD Sophi Tranchell and our ex-Chair Sandy Balfour – both of whom worked with Gordon Roddick from the start.  Here is what Kuapa Kokoo said in tribute:

“If any organization could stand the test of time, then one of such organizations is Kuapa Kokoo.

The success story of Kuapa Kokoo would therefore be meaningless without the acknowledgement of your invaluable contributions.

One thing that makes you unique is your entrepreneurial spirit which gave birth to ‘The Body Shop’. Such a feat could not have been materialized without the unflinching support of your late wife, Anita. But for your investment from The Body Shop, the Day Chocolate Company, later Divine Chocolate Ltd. would not have been born. 

Kuapa Kokoo would like to pay a special tribute to you and your late wife, Anita – for being a pioneer in advocating fairer trade with farmers, for establishing a long term contract with The Body Shop – and for having the vision to support and invest in Divine Chocolate Ltd. Being a giant in the movement to ensuring a better deal for farmers and producers around the world is an inspiration for today’s social entrepreneurs who believe business can be done better.

Because it was The Body Shop’s Mission to dedicate it’s business to the pursuit of social and environmental change, it was manifested in your decision to hand over all the Body Shop shares in Divine to Kuapa Kokoo.

Also, the alacrity with which you chaired the Board of Divine Chocolate and the possibility for the Body Shop to buy Kuapa Kokoo products at the Fairtrade price; and your long stay at the chair of Divine Board has attracted the compliment of the Board, Management and Staff of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd.

The dedicated service you rendered to the course of Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate vis-à-vis Fairtrade ever since our friendship is greatly appreciated.

Sir, the Kuapa fraternity salutes you!!!”