The stars of the 2009 Fairtrade conference

29 September 2009

Posted by Sophi:

Kuapa Kokoo President Mr Buah outside Kensington Town Hall where the Fairtrade Commercial Conference took place

Kuapa Kokoo President Mr Buah outside Kensington Town Hall where the Fairtrade Commercial Conference took place

Last week I attended the Fairtrade Foundation Commercial Conference in Kensington Town Hall. Among an impressive collection of commercial heavy hitters, it was Cornelius Lynch, the Manager of the National Fairtrade organisation in St Lucia who was the star of the show. He opened the day with his lilting Caribbean tones describing how they have been exporting their Fairtrade bananas since 2000, and his great satisfaction at seeing them on the shelves of supermarkets in the UK during his visit in Fairtrade Fortnight 2009.   He gave a real sense of the impact this has had in his community, and how they are now in a position to diversify their crops.  He did mention that the value of the Fairtrade price had deceased as the cost of inputs had increased, but the overall message was one of empowerment and progress.

It was also a treat to see Abi Petit the Managing Director of Gossypium the UK best loved Fairtrade clothing brand.  She first worked in textiles in 1985 with Traidcraft and went on to establish Agrocel, the world’s first traceable cotton suppler.  Her obvious passion for the project was contagious and her confidence in the continued growth of consumers who care was reassuring.  She emphasized the importance of working with organised farmers who can decide how they use their money, and how nothing will really change until companies in the North relinquish their need to dominate.      

One of the lovely newcomers to Fairtrade was Heather Masoud, Director of Zaytoun, the Palestinian Olive Oil that got Fairtrade certified this year and is now available from the Co-op, Ethical Superstore, and Traidcraft.  Her account of the way Fairtrade had restored these farmers’ dignity was an inspiration and her description of the excellent olive oil made you want to rush out and get a bottle now.

With this year’s headline speakers including  Waitrose MD Mark Price, the MD of Starbucks Darcy Willson-Rymer, and Todd Stitzer, CEO Cadbury, it all seemed a very far cry from this event nine years ago when a small number of committed Fairtrade businesses were debating how to stretch our meagre resources to achieve a National retail presence. Todd Stitzer kindly acknowledged the importance of Divine in his speech, and it was good to meet him afterwards.  But I did come away from the event thinking: how amazing we have come this far – but have we secured the change we set out to achieve? Have the terms of trade changed, and do farmers now have a more equal and empowered position in the supply chain?

Mr Buah in town to look after business

24 September 2009
Mr Buah at Tower Bridge

Mr Buah at Tower Bridge

Mr Paul Celestine Kofi Buah, President of the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ cooperative, is in town for the Board meetings of Divine UK and Divine US, the companies co-owned by the cooperative.

We took the opportunity of a bit a sight-seeing trip in between meetings!

Mr Buah outside Whole Foods Market which has a rather splendid range of Divine Chocolate

Mr Buah outside Whole Foods Market which has a rather splendid range of Divine Chocolate

Spot the Divine taxi!

23 September 2009
Now driving around London can be Divine

Now driving around London can be Divine

We’re rather delighted with our new Divine taxi – the most stylish transport to be seen in around town!!  But you don’t need to take a ride to enjoy the Divine experience – just take a pic of the taxi on your mobile, send it over to us – and you could win a fantastic chocolate prize

Tomorrow Mr Buah, the President of Kuapa Kokoo, who’s in town for the Divine Board Meetings, will be going travelling in London in the taxi in full traditional Ghanaian dress. (NB if you’re hoping to win that Divine prize – here’s a clue – the taxi should be around the Tower Bridge area and travelling between Kensington and Tower Bridge tomorrow morning – happy snapping!)

Mr Paul Celestine Kofi Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo, and Board member of Divine Chocolate Ltd

Mr Paul Celestine Kofi Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo, and Board member of Divine Chocolate Ltd

Cocoa farmers make you think

17 September 2009
Comfort Kwaasibea and Comfort Asere comment on the waste of good farming space in my back garden

Comfort Kwaasibea and Comfort Asare-Kwabi comment on the waste of good farming space in my back garden

It has been interesting working with cocoa farmers – seeing the world through their eyes you can learn a thing or two.

I remember Comfort Asare-Kwabi, who had just arrived in UK for the first time, saying to me when she saw my back garden – “how can you own so much land, and not grow your own food?”.  I felt a bit ashamed. I haven’t got a very big garden, but Comfort sowed a seed in my mind – and it did eventually make me dig up the flower bed, make a raised vegetable bed and start growing our own.

Another time Comfort Kwaasibea said, as we drove to a meeting with Gordon Brown during Fairtrade Fortnight, “Why did God make London like this… and Ghana like it is?”  Not something I could easily answer – though I didn’t feel it was God’s doing.  We expect that farmers – leaving their villages for the first time – will find UK a virtual paradise – but it’s not really the case.  They comment that there’s a ridiculous amount of choice in our supermarkets. For those Ghanaians tempted to try their luck in UK they have words of warning, “you think it will be good, but it is very hard to make your living here.”

The farmers’ perspective is a sharp reminder there’s so much Stuff we don’t need, and that though they too aspire to cars, mobile phones, roads, brick houses etc they’re not fussed about all the additional stuff – and that sustainable income, clean water, health and education remain their number one priorities along with the importance of community and extended family.

They also have sayings and turns of phrase that can be rather more interesting than ours… for example, when about to take on a big task (like setting up your own chocolate company) – “if you’re going to try and eat an elephant.. start with it’s trunk”.

From cocoa farmer to international Kuapa ambassador!

11 September 2009


Kuapa Kokoo National Executive and staff. (Cecilia Appianim second from left)

Kuapa Kokoo National Executive and staff (and Sophi and Sandy from Divine) - Cecilia Appianim second from left

I am Cecilia Appianim. I joined Kuapa Kokoo back in 1998 – the year that Divine was born.  I am a cocoa farmer from Agona Swedru, in the Central Region of Ghana.

Coming from a community where women are not given the opportunity to partake in active decision making processes, being a member of Kuapa Kokoo has been an eye opener. I was attracted to Kuapa when I realised I could gain more in terms of bonuses paid for selling my cocoa, as well as sharing in development projects undertaken for my community. The income generating activities specially designed for women in my Kuapa society have also gone a long way to empower me financially.

I was elected National Financial Secretary of Kuapa Kokoo Union about three years ago. I work closely with the Treasurer to ensure that the finances of the union are in order. I contested with a man and had a land slide victory. I guess it is because everyone knows women can be better trusted with money than men! My job is very challenging but with the training I have received form Kuapa Kokoo, i have been able to handle it.

I have had the opportunity to travel to the United States of America on two occasions. On both occasions I had the chance to tell people about what fairtrade and the ownership of Divine Chocolate means to members of Kuapa Kokoo.

Cecilia and Kuapa colleague at the Library of Congress in Washington DC

Cecilia and Kuapa colleague at the Library of Congress in Washington DC

My trip to US was an eye opener! I was able to see big supermarket chains that stock our Divine Chocolate! It was amazing and I felt really proud that my cocoa had been turned into something so sweet! Things were very different from what happens over here in Ghana. I met a lot of people who support fairtrade and Divine and I entreated then to buy more fairtrade so that villages like Asentem could enjoy good drinking, mobile clinics etc.

Ownership of Divine chocolate has enabled me to meet highly placed people I never imagined I will meet. Divine has indeed given us recognition in the chocolate world. This is evidenced in the way people trooped to the various centres to listen to me.

Kuapa farmer Cecilia Appianim at Kuapa HQ with Divine

Kuapa farmer Cecilia Appianim at Kuapa HQ with Divine

Ownership across the Commodity Chain

9 September 2009

A guest blog from Michael Niemann, a writer and teacher, and expert on the cocoa to chocolate commodity chain

Think of the Divine chocolate bar you just bought as the last link of a long chain. As you follow the chain back, link by link, you discover all the things that were necessary to make that Divine bar. There’s the wrapper, of course, then all the things what went into the chocolate itself–cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, lecithin. You can spot all those things on the list of ingredients. But you’ll have to use your imagination to see the people who worked hard to make them. That’s the problem with chocolate (and all other things). We can always see the thing but rarely think of the people who make everything that goes into it.

Fairtrade is an important step towards making some of those people visible. Every time I buy a Divine bar, I know that my purchase also benefits the cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo. They will get a fair price and a social premium that contributes to their livelihood. But remember, the farmers stand at the very beginning of that chain. Fairtrade helps channel some additional money their way, but they are still at the beginning.

Throughout history, being at the beginning of a commodity chain has not been the best place to be. Yes, there have been some exceptions–oil comes to mind–but these just prove the rule. Usually the people who handle the later stages of making things, those in the middle and at the end of the chain, gain more. Economists call that value-added. That’s especially true of things made from tropical inputs. Fairtrade, as important as it is, does not change the position of the farmers, nor does it give them a larger share of the value-added that accumulates along the chain.

That’s why venture that Kuapa Kokoo and Divine have pioneered is so important. The farmers are part-owners of the chocolate company. They have leapfrogged from the beginning of the chain to its end. When Divine managing director Sophi Tranchell delivered another dividend check to Kuapa Kokoo last August, she didn’t hand over development aid, she handed the farmers their share of the value-added accumulated at the end of the chain. It’s fairtrade plus ownership. We can only hope that this model is replicated many more times.

Read Michael Niemann’s blog Bitter Chocolate here

Ghana qualify for 2010 World Cup

8 September 2009

Lifted from the BBC Sport site…

Ghana have qualified for their second successive World Cup after a 2-0 victory over Sudan in Accra.

The Black Stars reached the 2006 tournament in Germany under Ratomir Dujkovic and another Serb coach, Milovan Rajevac has repeated the feat.

Ghana knew World Cup qualification was in their hands when Benin scored an equaliser against Mali just a few minutes before the kick-off in Accra.

Sulley Muntari’s strike early in the first half put the hosts in the driving seat.

Michael Essien made sure of the three points and World Cup qualification when he scored just a few minutes after half-time.

Ghana remain unbeaten in Group D.

Ghanaians love their football, and this world cup qualification follows their success in the Germany 2006 World Cup when they progressed through the first round group stages but were knocked out in the second round by Brazil.

Let's hope for some Divine intervention - on this occasion it was not forthcoming

Click thru here to read about Tom Palmers Ghana Diary, and his planning of a story about the next Ghanaian footballing sensation.