Posted by Sophi:
While people in Britain continued to contemplate the length and depth of this year’s winter and when it will ever finish, the Divine Directors escaped to the sun, making the annual pilgrimage to Ghana for our board meeting. I have been making this journey for eleven years. Pauline Tiffen, the Director who helped Kuapa Kokoo set up, has been going there even longer, and now we have people travelling from USA and Holland too.
I sit on a number of boards and getting people to know and trust each other is always a challenge, involving planning days, and retreats etc. But with Divine we have all been making the trip to Ghana to meet with the farmers that own 45% of the company and see their challenges close up. In the process we have also had a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other, once you have shared the experience of changing planes in Amsterdam at 4.30 am you have nothing to hide!
The farmers have had a difficult autumn but seem to have come through with renewed vigour. At their AGM last year they passed a Constitution, the result of a good consultative process. As this year is an election year they are working hard to embed it at a local and district level. They have created an A3 flip chart to use in villages, with illustrations to explain how the new constitution will work for them. There will be much more going on at a District level rather then at National Executive. This should really help to build Kuapa both as a democratic farmers’ organisation and as a cocoa buying company. The flip chart was another lovely example of Kuapa really appreciating that everyone needs to understand and be able to join in the new constitution.
Both the USA and UK Board meetings went well, chaired by Sandy Balfour in his inimitable way, lots of good discussions on future plans, with no distractions. Kuapa took us all out for a Chinese meal – we all sat at a huge round table with a lazy susan, enjoying the company, the spicy food and the G&Ts.
Divine’s board is really representative of what makes Divine special, made up of talented busy people who generously give their time for the bigger vision, a world where the producers have a real say and a share of the wealth they are creating. They represent organisations: Twin, Christian Aid, Comic Relief, Oikocredit and Lutheran World Relief who have worked for far longer to create a more equitable trading system based on respect and dignity. We talked into the night, putting the world to rights. After two days of meeting, thousands of miles of travel and much food for thought, we began our trips home, grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so significant.