Joining 3000 farmers for the Kuapa Kokoo AGM

28 August 2009
On overhead view of the Kuapa Kokoo AGM

Farmers gather for the Kuapa Kokoo AGM

I was in Ghana recently to join Kuapa Kokoo for their 15th delegates conference, followed by their AGM in the grounds of Knust University in Kumasi.  3,000 delegates gathered from all Kuapa’s 1,300 village societies making the journey from across Ghana’s cocoa growing regions. Gloriously dressed in Kuapa’s ceremonial cloth, cut to every shape and size you can imagine, men and women, some with their children in tow, creating a real spirit of celebration.  Seth Gogoe from Twin travel up with me, Ernest Adzim from FLO was in attendance with Emilie Persson a Swedish intern and Divine supporter.  Cord Budde, the owner of the factory that makes Divine, was also there. The AGM is always an occasion to meet old friends.

The delegate conference on the Wednesday broke into three groups.  One to look at the proposed Fairtrade premium Projects, one to review Kuapa’s policy on child labour and one to discuss the final amendments to the new constitution. The seriousness and patience of all the delegates despite the heat and the complexity of the discussions was impressive.  This was the culmination of months of consultation.  There was lots of debate in English and Twi (their local language) and when people returned for the plenary, there was a sense of a job well done and the right decision being taken.  The evening ended with a song and a prayer.

Next morning the AGM was opened by the President Mr PK Buah dressed in ceremonial white and black Kente cloth.  He presented Mr Aduse Puko the New Managing Director of the trading company and Mr Arthur the new Chief Officer of the Union.   The delegates listened attentively and voted, and in good Kuapa tradition there was music and dancing to break up the business.  I reported on how Divine had performed over the last year in UK and USA and I welcomed the work they had done on the constitution. Regina translated my speech and Comfort Kumeah stood with me in support. 

Divine received a citation from the President for all the work it has done over the last 10 years – you can see what it says on our website.

Divine MD Sophi Tranchell receives a special Citation from Kuapa Kokoo president Mr Buah, in recognition of the work Divine has done over its first decade

Divine MD Sophi Tranchell receives a special Citation from Kuapa Kokoo president Mr Buah, in recognition of the work Divine has done over its first decade

 A citation was also given to Francis who has worked as a driver for Kuapa since 1993, he had become the chief driver and was now retiring after 15 years service. 

The membership agreed the new constitution and the Fairtrade Premium Project plans and accepted the annual reports.  The Managing Director announced the payment of the Government bonus to great applause, and the AGM voted to invest a large proportion of the £33,602 Dividend from Divine Chocolate in their US Divine business. 

Awards were made for the most productive societies in each area, they included machetes and spraying equipment.  There was also an award made to a disabled farmer who had managed to get his society to deliver 2,000 bags of cocoa.  He was awarded a motorized quad bike and I handed over the key.

Handing over the keys to a quad bike to a disabled farmer who has spurred his society on to produce 2000 bags of cocoa

Handing over the keys to a quad bike to a disabled farmer who has spurred his society on to produce 2000 bags of cocoa

A doctor made a long speech about the importance of health and hygiene emphasising how important it was people to take medical advise from properly qualified doctors and then to take any medicine as prescribed.  

The AGM closed with another song and prayer and members began their long hot trek home until next year….


Posted by Sophi

A chocolate company co-owned by farmers

25 August 2009
Farmer Adwoa Asianaa with a bar of Kuapa's Divine Chocolate

Farmer Adwoa Asianaa with a bar of Kuapa Kokoo's Divine Chocolate

Are there any other mainstream brands in UK that have African farmers as their largest shareholder?  It’s an extraordinary business model to be part of – and we’ve been explaining over the years how company-ownership delivers real power to the farmers’ cooperative in the cocoa and chocolate markets , over and above the additional income it ensures.

However I’m constantly surprised at the feedback we get from individuals and organisations who have not really understood this model.  It seems that whereas people understand where the control lies in company ownership examples such as Cadbury’s and Green & Blacks, Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s or Mars and Seeds of Change, even the most ethical of commentators or supporters seem not to appreciate the same relationship is possible with a group of African farmers. 

We are constantly asked why we don’t ‘get our farmers’ to do this or that; for example to tell them to go organic, or apply different environmental standards, or host any trip people fancy making to view the farmers at work.  Ultimately Divine is their chocolate company, they have two representitives on the Board, and we function as their marketing arm in UK.  We can advise them as to market trends here, latest research studies and consumer feedback – but ultimately they make their own decisions about their company in a democratic fashion, and our plans have to be signed off by them, not the other way round.

For Kuapa Kokoo, having the major stake in their own chocolate company has not only brought in two further streams of income – it has given them status, and access to the workings of the chocolate market, previously unknown to cocoa farmers, and face-to-face contact with movers and shakers in that world.  They have seen and heard firsthand that they are part of something much bigger (and more lucrative) than the confines of their own cocoa growing community in Ghana.   Global companies have been buying cocoa from Ghana for over 100 years – but cocoa farmers have only discovered their cocoa goes to make chocolate relatively recently. Through owning Divine, the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo are in a more knowledgable and more powerful position in the supply chain.

Choc a block!

13 August 2009
Divine Chocolate Fudge Cake - mmmmm

Divine Chocolate Fudge Cake - mmmmm

Its all go here at the Divine office!

My favourite event of the year, Chocolate Week is on the horizon (October 12th – 18th) and we are busy organising events up and down the country. Divine has been the proud sponsor of Chocolate Week for six years in a row and we are delighted to be working with some of our old favourites such as the wonderful Pudding Club in the Cotswolds made famous by Rick Stein, Terre à Terre in Brighton, winner of the Observer Food Award’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant 2008, and the very exclusive Sanderson hotel in London’s West End.

We are also pleased to welcome some new kids on the chocolate bloc too! Couture cake-maker to the stars, Mich Turner from the Little Venice Cake Company will be producing bespoke Divine cupcakes and we’ll be bringing a Divine tasting experience to Livia Firth’s Eco Age store in Chiswick.

To tickle your taste buds in preparation for Chocolate Week, I wanted to point you towards a fantastic recipe from last year. Chocolate Fudge Cake by Michelin star chef Michael Caines, how Divine!

Tom Palmer’s Ghana diary

4 August 2009

Here at the Divine offices, we are really excited to be having a read of Tom Palmer’s diary.

The children’s author has been on a trip of a lifetime to Ghana researching for his new book, Off Side. Tom’s books are all about football – but his Football Detective series is also about social issues that impact on children – and his latest is no exception. Off Side will be partly about chocolate, partly about the allure of the world of football, plus a strong message about Fairtrade!

When Tom’s wife contacted Divine, we thought it sounded like a great theme and were really happy to help. Charlotte put him in touch with Kuapa Kokoo, who organised a special trip to a school and cocoa farm in Akomadan village.

His previous works include Foul Play and Football Academy, and his latest book, Dead Ball, will be launching this week – a perfect holiday read for bored teens!

This is Tom’s fantastic diary of his travels and the people he met in Accra, Kumasi and Akomadan cocoa farming village. We hope you enjoy reading about his adventures in Ghana as much as we have!

Tom Palmer’s diary

polaroid_tom_school_dubbleFriday 17 July, 4pm

I am above the Sahara Desert on my way to Ghana, travelling there to research a novel for children. Off Side will be about football, people trafficking and fair trade chocolate. The Sahara goes on for hours, even in a plane. Hours of sand and heat and nothingness.
In 1998 I walked through the Sahara. Some of it, anyway. I was doing a charity walk for Macmillan Cancer Support. Raising money for the charity that had helped look after my parents when they were dying. I met my wife on that walk. And my wife is behind me being out here again. On this plane.

To give you more detail about the book I’m writing… Off Side is about a Ghanaian boy who dreams of being a footballer at one of Europe’s top clubs. But he is cheated by an unscrupulous football agent and finds himself in England with no place at a football club and no way of getting home. But, because of my wife, the book is going to be about more than that.

We were sat in a cafe. The Bear, a fair trade cafe in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. My wife was reading the wrapper of a Divine bar that we were scoffing. ‘Your book is about the unfair trade in wannabe footballers,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you talk to Divine too? About fair trade chocolate? That would make the story even better.’ So she called Divine and they kindly invited me to go to see them.

Read his complete diary here .


Find out more about Tom and his work on his website.