Why Divine and Kuapa Kokoo are unique

29 April 2009
MD of Kuapa Kokoo ltd Kwasi Aduse-Poku in London this month

MD of Kuapa Kokoo ltd Kwasi Aduse-Poku in London this month

My name is Kwasi Aduse-Poku, I am the managing director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd and I am here in the UK to attend the Divine Chocolate Ltd Board Meeting.

I am from a cocoa farming family and I myself have a cocoa farm. I was appointed as Managing Director back on the 1st September 2008. Previously I worked for the PBC (Produce Buying Company), the buying company of the Ghanaian cocoa board. Moving to Kuapa Kokoo has been both challenging and interesting. Kuapa Kokoo is unique among the Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) in being owned by the farmers who sell their cocoa to it. My role as MD is unusual as I am working with the people who are the workers, but also my employers.

I think the co-operative structure is working well here in Ghana – people perform better if they own the company.  It is a challenge running a cooperative of this size – you need to have enough working capital, and make enough profit to help maintain the structure and the principles. 

Having been in the USA for the Divine Chocolate Inc Board meeting there last week, and being here for the Board meeting and other appointments this week has really highlighted to me how important owning Divine is for Kuapa Kokoo.  We not only have our own chocolate company which gives us a stake in the chocolate market, and a Dividend, but also the opportunity to network across the industry worldwide – which gives us very useful knowledge and more influence.  The transparency of the relationship between Divine and its stakeholders makes the company truly unique.

I also appreciated the opportunity to see a little of Washington DC – in fact I got to see a bird’s eye view of the city from 500 ft up the Washington Monument!  I also visited the Washington Zoo and saw their elephants. Back in Ghana we can have problems with elephants trampling crops – the story goes that when elephants are going to water to drink they are very scared they will suck crabs up their trunks at the same time, so they trample hard before drinking to ensure they have crushed all the crabs!

The President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in London

28 April 2009
Mr Buah at the Divine offices for the April Board meeting

Mr Buah at the Divine offices for the April Board meeting

I am here in the UK to represent the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union on the Board of Divine. Today is the Divine Board meeting here in London, last week was the US Divine Board meeting in Washington DC.

I am a farmer with four acres of cocoa farm and I was elected President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union on 13th July 2006, having been elected from village to regional level, and then to national level. I was a Recorder for my society in Twifu-Wamaso in the Central region of Ghana.

At the Divine US Board meeting we heard about the challenges of increasing Divine sales in such a big country, and alongside many other chocolate brands.  We can see the progress that has been made and the potential the company has to grow. 

I am interested in history and I was glad to have the opportunity to see a bit of Washington while I was there with my fellow Board members. We went right to the top of the Monument.

I now look forward to hearing news of the UK operation.

Recently at Kuapa we have been recruiting for the Research and Development department. This is the outreach team that ensures we keep in close contact with all the village societies (over 1200) in the cooperative.  Instead of being based in the offices in Kumasi, these people are now based in different regions – so they are closer all the time to the farmers. One of their priorities is teaching farmers better farming skills and practices – to increase productivity and keep their cocoa quality high and disease free.  The cocoa particularly suffers from Black Pod – I estimate that up to a third of Ghana’s cocoa is lost to Black Pod each year – so we want farmers to know exactly how to prevent it affecting their crops.

Mr Buah speaking at the 2008 Kuapa Kokoo AGM in Ghana

Mr Buah speaking at the 2008 Kuapa Kokoo AGM in Ghana

At the AGM later this year, where all the village societies are represented, we will once again be deciding how to invest our Dividend from Divine. Every farmer got a machete last year – this was extremely popular!

posted by Paul Celestine Kofi Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union

Working at Divine for a week

27 April 2009
Jack Williams at the Divine offices in London

Jack Williams at the Divine offices in London

My name is Jack Williams  and I am currently in my second year at the University of Sunderland studying a Public Relations degree. I managed to get this placement by speaking to Alistair, who is Head of Marketing at Divine, after a talk that he did at the university some months back. He then passed on the Charlotte’s details, who is Head of Communications and I pestered her enough to get this placement. So a big thank you to them both. 

Firstly, it has been great to learn from people within the Public Relations industry and I believe I learnt a lot from them.

Divine’s use of Social Media was extremely interesting to look at especially after my module in the subject. It was very useful to see how a company entering the world of web 2.0 approached this and have recently developed in this area. The idea of not just talking to your audiences but actually engaging with your publics in a conversation was good to see after discussing this theoretically in class.

Looking at the actual brand of Divine was the thing that most appealed to me. As the topic of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) becomes ever present in mission statements and companies business objectives, so to does the need for ethical companies to point out that this is not a gimmick or PR stunt. The work at Divine and the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative has altered cocoa farmers lives and the lives of there families for the better. Looking at how a company is founded on the base of trust and ethics was fantastic. It tied in with the CIPR code of conduct, which I should abide by as a student member and also my Media Law and Ethics module.

Some of my favourite bits, in no particular order

1. I went to an Ethical fashion event on Wednesday with Rosanna after my mission into work. Although fashion is not a specific interest of mine, it was really interesting. I met a couple of designers (one of which has a range in Topshop) and enjoyed getting some insight into the ethical fashion industry.

2. I got to experience working for the charity Trading Visions and thought of an idea for a release which is being used. So I was extremely chuffed with that. And Tom was a pleasure to work with as well. 

3. Meeting the staff. I did not feel nervous or intimidated at all. They were all great and I really enjoyed working with them.

4. The free chocolate, of course…

I previously carried out some work experience at an agency in the North West called Pelican PR, which I also really enjoyed. Working in-house at Divine has given me a different perspective into the world of Public Relations as you have to work on one brand rather than a handful. This was good because it allowed me to be more focused, especially as I still have fairly limited experience in comparison to someone who has been in the industry for years.

The biggest lesson of all for me was that I can really enjoy a job. Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my previous jobs. I felt like although Divine is a business and there to make money, it did more than many other companies in the same sector to help improve the quality of peoples lives.

Ghanaian schoolchildren webcasting to UK schools

24 April 2009
Akumadan schoolchildren filming their webcast

Akumadan schoolchildren filming their webcast

Over the last three months I’ve been working on a new service for schools, launched by Comic Relief and Trading Visions, in collaboration with Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate. It’s called Pa Pa Paa LIVE, and it’s an online video broadcasting service, delivering webcasts from a rural junior school in Ghana to classrooms across the UK. The idea is that schools in the UK can post questions online for the young people in Ghana to answer in their webcasts, and post further comments and questions after each broadcast has taken place.

The school that delivers the webcasts, Great Fammis School, has around 300 students and is in the Ashanti region of Ghana. It was built using Fairtrade premium money from sales of Fairtrade cocoa, in memory of the founder of Kuapa Kokoo, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese, who came from the local area. The area has a strong cocoa producing heritage, although tomato farming is also an important crop and many of the children at the school are from tomato farming families.

The students at Great Fammis School are filming the webcasts themselves, and slowly learning how to use a camcorder and computer. We fund a member of staff at Kuapa Kokoo to travel to the school every month to help them do this. It has been an interesting process.

In these rural schools in Ghana, teaching tends towards a rote learning approach, rather than the more interactive methods now often favoured by teachers in the UK. We were interested in stimulating a real conversation between young people in Ghana and young people in the UK, so we wanted to see if we could minimise adult supervision and have the young people film and direct the webcasts themselves. Managing projects and expressing their own views without teachers looking over their shoulders is a new experience for the children, but seem to be getting the hang of it… and rather enjoying the opportunity!

Overall, it’s an exciting journey for ourselves and the students at Great Fammis School, and we’re learning a lot as we go along. Teachers and students may be interested in watching the first webcast the young people made here, and finding out more about the service here.

Unusual places to find Divine – part 1

23 April 2009
Katie finds Dubble at Aviemore

Katie finds Dubble at Aviemore

Our friend Katie Williamson of Hand Up Media has just been ski-ing at Aviemore (alright for some!) and discovered Dubble and Divine are the chocolate brands of choice for your apres-ski treat at Scotland’s highest restaurant!

Katie finds Divine in Aviemore

Katie finds Divine in Aviemore

We really like hearing about far flung and unexpected places to find Divine and Dubble. Let us know the unlikeliest place you’ve come across them!

Ghana is feeling the impact of the world economic crisis

20 April 2009

Interesting to see Polly Toynbee of The Guardian has been out to Ghana to see for herself what this West African democracy has achieved – but how that effort is now at risk due to the world economic crisis.  Asking the IMF for help, she writes, historically comes with onerous conditions. See her article here

Divine making a mark in the Jewish community

20 April 2009

Looking back, March was a significant month in the history of Fairtrade in the UK for many reasons. But there is one reason that stands out for me personally: the way the Jewish community has taken on the Fairtrade campaign and made it mainstream. This was the month that all the myriad individual actions and Synagogue initiatives were properly recognised and brought together into a more co-ordinated programme.

The first Jewish Guide to Fairtrade was published – a fantastic resource and joint collaboration between the Fairtrade Foundation and different Jewish organisations; backed importantly by all the main sections of British Jewry. And during Fairtrade Fortnight this year there were many more events, film showings and tastings in Jewish cultural venues, including a number run by the vibrant Jewish Community Centre for London.

It makes me proud that Divine has been at the forefront of this upswing in activity. Divine and Kuapa Kokoo are featured prominently in the Jewish Guide to Fairtrade. All Divine chocolate is now officially checked and suitable for sale and consumption within the Jewish community. March was the first month when we could publicly announce this, with all the packaging in line to get the mark on over the coming months.

Way back in May 2005, Divine publicly committed itself to the process of makings its chocolate certified as being kosher – meeting the religion’s dietary rules. I still have the Jewish Chronicle article from the time covering the announcement! For observant Jews, all food products need to be certified as kosher. The certification process involves a Rabbi inspecting the factory and also checking that the ingredients that go into the product are all permitted. If everything meets the standards, the product is awarded a hescher – a mark by the certification board that is put on the packaging to show that it is kosher, and also which signifies whether the product has any dairy or (approved) meat ingredients in it. So that is the process which Divine – and the factory in Germany – has been going through and which it has now successfully completed. All Divine chocolate bars now have a hescher, as do the coins, mini-eggs and chocolate covered fruit. If you look carefully on the wrapper, you will see it: a small triangle with a ‘K’ in the middle. The United Synagogue Kashrut Division of the London Beth Din has also approved the chocolate. For the first time the Divine range is listed in The Really Jewish Food Guide (2009)

Two days after the launch of the Jewish Guide to Fairtrade, Divine was involved in its first public event specifically within the Jewish community. The JCC and Tzedek (a Jewish overseas development and educational charity) organised a ‘Chocoholics’ evening – sampling and participatory cookery demonstration with a chocolatey theme. And because it was Fairtrade Fortnight, Divine was invited to kick proceedings off with a short talk.
So in I came to Adafina – a fabulous gourmet kosher deli and cafe in St John’s Wood – ready to do my usual interactive spiel on cocoa growing and Fairtrade. The talk itself went well – most people are fascinated by the story behind the chocolate, from bean to bar. But the sampling of Divine was the challenge. Normally I just break up bars of chocolate onto plates, making attractive patterns of white, milk and dark chunks. But a man came over and explained to me that the venue we were in was ‘parev’ – non dairy (dietary rules forbid the mixing of meat and milk, and thus there is a whole category of foods that are dairy free [think vegan alternatives] so can be eaten with a meaty meal). So that meant the milk chocolate was not allowed to be opened and sampled. Divine dark chocolate was fine though, as it doesn’t contain any dairy products.
The staff at Adafina were very supportive, especially the owner Natalie, who coincidentally used to work as a chocolate importer. And it was great to meet Dan Berelowitz of Tzedek and Hannah Wiesfield of JCC – two passionate and energetic champions of Fairtrade who are really driving forward the Jewish community’s engagement with the issue.

The chocoholics event wasn’t the first time Divine has worked with Tzedek. Over the past five years we have collaborated over Tzedek’s volunteer programme in Ghana. I remember having many wonderful conversations with Ester Gluck as she prepared to go over to Ghana and set up the programme. Subsequently Divine has helped brief several cohorts of volunteers before their departure. Tzedek has always been supportive of Fairtrade. And they stepped up their commitment last December, promoting Divine chocolate coins in the run-up to Hanukkah: a Jewish festival where one of the traditions is to play a game using ‘gelt’ – chocolate money – as counters.

The more synagogues pushing to be Fairtrade Synagogues; youth movements and Jewish schools and Sunday classes increasingly teaching about Fairtrade; an ever-expanding list of Fairtrade products – including the Divine range – certified as kosher and able to be stocked in Jewish shops; and a broader range of organisations now involved, this is an exciting time. And I am proud that Divine is part of these efforts.

Malcolm Clark  is a former colleague and long time supporter of Divine Chocolate. He now runs www.makevotescount.org.uk