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.

Oxfam

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


Divine connection: Ex US President meets new Kuapa President

4 May 2011

Mark Magers, CEO of Divine USA posts:

On May 1, International Workers Day, I had the privilege to accompany Madame Christiana Ohene Agyare, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, and Mr. Kwasi Aduse-Poku, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd., to attend church with, and later meet, former US President Jimmy Carter at his church, the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. They were in the US for a Board Meeting of Divine Chocolate Inc, to be held in Washington, DC, and traveled nearly 32 hours total to get to Plains.

For most of the time since President Carter left office, he has held almost weekly Sunday School sessions at his church, part of his commitment to service of others, and also to make himself available to people.

Christiana Ohene-Agyare and Kwasi Aduse-Poku with the Carters

Christiana Ohene-Agyare and Kwasi Aduse-Poku with the Carters. Photo by Randy and Mary Hathaway

When we arrived at the church, we waited in line for our turn for the security dog to sniff our car. Once clear of that, we parked where we were directed by a Secret Service agent, and walked to the next queue, this one to check bags, purses, and individuals with security wands. We then proceeded into the sanctuary, and had the honor of sitting in the front row. What followed was a briefing on dos and don’ts once Sunday School started, and the woman instructing us, Miss Jan, was very thorough, and very informative. Among other things we learned that Rosalynn Carter’s first name is Eleanor, and that President Carter was the first American president to be born in a hospital (his mother was a nurse), and to live in public housing (after he left the Navy).

The ground rules are necessary to make the process manageable for the church, which is quite small, and for President Carter, who is now 86 years young, as there can be several hundred visitors on a given Sunday. Apparently at the peak years back as many as 600 people would show up. This Sunday there were closer to 150, including 50 Canadians on a tour bus.

President Carter came out about 10 am and spoke to the crowd, finding out where people were from, and then told us what he had been up to the past week – meeting with Kim Jong Il in North Korea. When he heard our guests say they were from Ghana, he gave them a special welcome and commented on the work the Carter Foundation has done and is doing in Ghana, both monitoring elections for fairness and also working to eradicate the guinea worm from water supplies. He then proceeded to teach the Sunday School lesson. Madame Christiana was appreciative of his comments about the scriptural foundation of gender equality, a basic tenet of Kuapa Kokoo, and Mr. Aduse-Poku took many notes.

The regular service commenced next, and when Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter entered the church for the main service, they came over again and welcomed our Ghanaian visitors. After the service was over, we went outside and met briefly with the Carters, and took a few pictures, and of course, gave them a sample of Divine Chocolate. We had been told they always give away anything they are given, but Mrs Carter seemed very interested in this particular thank you! We also spoke briefly to them about Divine’s farmer-owned business model, and thanked President Carter for his comments about gender equality.

We went after church to Mom’s Kitchen for fried chicken, collard greens, and other southern specialties, as did most of the local people we met at church, and we had another round of conversations with folks who wondered who the Ghanaians were, and why the Carters had spent time with them. They were thrilled to learn it was all about chocolate!


Emilie’s first Divine report from Assin Akonfudi, Ghana

15 November 2010

First post from Swedish graduate Emilie Persson:

Welcome to my posts from Assin Akonfudi!

welcome to Assin Akonfudi

Children by one of the many churches

I will try to capture some of the everyday activities from one of the many villages where the Kuapa Kokoo farmers live and where farmer grow the cocoa for the company they co-own – Divine. As a masters-graduate in global studies, from the University of Gothenburg in western Sweden, I’ve been given an exciting opportunity to spend two months in the Ghanaian countryside, more exactly Assin Akonfudi in the central region. Having a passionate interest for development and agriculture and with several years of experience advocating Fairtrade in Sweden, it’s great to be able to get a more in-depth insight into the lives of the farmers behind Divine.  I hope it will be as interesting for you too!

Assin Akonfudi is situated in the north of the central region, close to the district capital Assin Bereku, on the main road from Cape Coast to Kumasi. The village is a mixed community with people of the ewe, fanti and ga tribes as well as others from the northern part of the country. According to the last census Akonfudi has around 2600 residents, some being very spiritual and enjoying spending their time in any of the twenty-three (!) churches or two mosques that the village holds, and traditional beliefs are also common. Surrounding Akonfudi are farmlands and it’s very common to grow cocoa, but also oil palm, orange, coconuts, coffee and teak. It is also very popular to use part of the farmland for banana or vegetables like tomato, pepper and garden eggs. Grazing around freely are plenty of goats, sheep, chickens and dogs, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming and music can always be heard from every house.

The village pool tableThe Kuapa Kokoo society in Akonfudi has been in place since 2007 and it has at the moment 23 members, out of which eight are women. In some of the coming blog posts we will join Kuapa’s recorder in Akonfudi  – John Dornu. He himself is a cocoa farmer and has been democratically elected by Kuapa members. John is in charge of collecting and paying for the cocoa from the members. We will join him at his farm to learn more about the complicated process of producing cocoa and all the steps involved.

In the picture below, I’m visiting the village Worakese Adabo, where Frank Arthur is the Kuapa Kokoo recorder.

Emilie and Kuapa Recorder Frank Arthur at Worakese Adabo village


A Divine Fortnight finale in London

9 March 2010

Emil Sands receiving his award from Comfort and Kojo

A very early start on Friday – heading up to Hampstead to visit University College School – for a special reason.  We were there to hand over the prize for the winning poem in this year’s Divine Poetry Competition.  The winner Emil Sands (age 11) had a vague notion something might happen but his classmates were blissfully ignorant – and amazed to find two cocoa farmers and a load of chocolate in their form room as they arrived!  Emil read his poem aloud – the farmers thought it was amazing – and we answered lots of questions about how cocoa grows and all the reasons to choose Divine and Dubble.  We also handed over some Dubble Gold Sport Relief chocolate medals – as they had lots of Sport Relief events planned.  A great start to the day.

It got better – we popped into Body Shop Hampstead – and I introduced the farmers (Kuapa Kokoo supplies all the cocoa butter that goes into Body Shop products). The girls there knew all about Kuapa and were absolutely thrilled, and showered the farmers with gifts to take home to their families.

Then on to Premier Christian Radio for an interview with Bridgitte Tetteh.  That was great fun – lots of laughing – and Kojo and Comfort broke into song. They included an item on their regular news bulletin about the farmers all day and still to broadcast the full interview – will add a link when they do.

Comfort and Kojo 'fly' on the Eye

On Saturday morning – a trip on the London Eye which was a really big hit!! (Note to self – must go up on it myself sometime!!). Then on to Chiswick (my home town) and sampling all afternoon at As Nature Intended and Eco-Age. Supper at Nando’s (Peri peri chicken wings) and on to St Michael’s and All Angels where Chiswick Churches for Justice and Peace had organised a Ghanaian spectacular – to celebrate both Fairtrade Fortnight and Ghana Independence Day.  There was an exhibition of Ghanaian artifacts and history + work by Ghanaian artists.  A full house, Ghanaian music, a great presentation by Kojo and Comfort – and a real revelation moment when the audience realised that Divine is not only Fairtrade – but also 45% owned by Kuapa Kokoo. A real reason to choose Divine – and to keep campaigning for a fairer deal for farmers.

Introducing the Fairtrade concert at the Barbican

On Sunday it was a concert at the Barbican – as part of the Do Something Different weekend. The whole place was heaving with children doing artwork and taking part in all sorts of projects.  Young people from City youth groups had worked really hard on their own compositions inspired by Fairtrade and they performed them beautifully. I was really moved and so were Comfort and Kojo – who said how pleased it made them to see young people caring about Fairtrade.  All their families came along and they were so proud.  A fantastic collaboration by Corporation of London, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Barbican. Thank you to everyone who came along. It was really special.

The team behind the Barbican Fairtrade concert

Reverend George Bush from the City of London Fairtrade steering group

 


On Divine tour with David

4 March 2010

On the road for Fairtrade Fortnight.

David and his magic truffles

Down to Exeter to wow everyone at 3663 with a truffle making demonstration.  I arrived at 8am and while setting up for the tea flavoured chocolate truffle demonstration used the opportunity to chat with some of the hundreds of 3663 customers from all sectors of the hospitality industry in the south west. Half way through the day I made truffles using cafédirect earl gray tea and Divine 70% dark chocolate. Judging from the response the audience enjoyed them and a good number asked for the recipe.

4pm off to Loughborough and the Dog House meeting room where I met the lovely people of Charnwood. Charnwood was awarded Fairtrade Borough status by the Fairtrade Foundation in March 2006 and was the first borough in the East Midlands to gain this prestigious status.

Comfort tells her story at Charnwood

When I arrived the meeting was in full flow with Kuapa farmers Comfort, Kojo and Rosanna from Divine answering lots of interesting questions; I arrived just in time for a few choccy-related ones.  At the close of the meeting Ghanaian music was played and both farmers put the reserved English to shame as they danced the night away.

Queen Eleanor School

Friday in Stamford – Queen Eleanor School – and a full day of students from several schools listening to the farmers’ stories and learning how choosing Divine can change the lives ot cocoa farmers in Ghana. During the day students and staff were taught how to taste chocolate lie a connoisseur and make Divine chocolate ganache. BBC East Midlands Today came to film the event and find out what the students learned.

Friday afternoon and off to Stamford town centre to open a new Fairtrade shop ‘Green Circle’ on St Mary’s Hill and meet with the owner Simon Tee who stocks the best chocolate – Divine of course.

Saturday morning: 15 local business owners met with the Divine team for a breakfast meeting at Lady Anne’s Hotel entitled “Why Fairtrade is good for business”. I explained why doing the right thing can improve the balance sheet and delegates had the chance to question Comfort and Kojo about what impact owning a chocolate company has on their day to day lives? And of course a little education on how to taste chocolate the meeting finished with some delegates making a commitment to swap to Fairtrade. Then some shopping time for the farmers while I go into chocolatier mode.
Next stop a truffle making workshop at Barn Hill Methodist Church centre
Rutland radio 107.2 97.4 FM presenter Rob Persani, joined us to record his Friday challenge along with 64 eager chocoholics who hung on every word of why Divine is different and how to taste chocolate like a connoisseur.  They got to go away with truffles they’d made themselves. The whole event was covered by Channel Lincolnshire for future broadcast.

Saturday night was free time for the farmers and along with around 150 others we  attended a Haiti fund raiser with the Wakefield Community Gospel Choir singing joyful songs.  A very colourful exhibition Haitian art and Haitian food a great night was had by all.

Barn Hill Methodist Church

The next day we attended Sunday service where another full house was awaiting the farmers. The children performed a puppet show called It’s not fair! and highlighted the issues around trade justice and how Kuapa Kokoo and  Divine are making a difference to cocoa farmers in Ghana.
Andy Fyall, the minster went on to explain to adults trade justice using the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard  from Mattews gospel  20:1-16


What a day in Croydon!

26 February 2009
Divine, Kuapa Kokoo and the Co-op enjoying Croydon!

Divine, Kuapa Kokoo and the Co-op enjoying Croydon!

We had a fantastic day in Croydon being looked after by the Croydon Fairtrade Network and Croydon Council.  Anane and James were up early in the morning to catch the train from London Bridge. We were met by the wonderfully organised Chris Hunt dressed in a rather fetching traditional Ghanaian outfit and we were whisked over to the Croydon College for the first event.
 
Kuapa Kokoo farmers meet the Body Shop for a hand massage

Kuapa Kokoo farmers meet the Body Shop for a hand massage

Deborah Clement at Croydon Council organised a business breakfast with an audience of 30 local businesses from the Envibe database, an organisation set up by the council dedicated to making positive ethical change to businesses in Croydon.

The Body Shop talked first about how their cocoa butter products have been using Kuapa Kokoo butter for over 15 years through their community trade scheme. The farmers were delighted to receive a hand massage from one of the Body Shop consultants after the talk.

Divine spoke next and introduced both farmers who gave an interesting talk about growing cocoa and how Fairtrade had impacted their lives. They made a passionate plea to the businesses to continue supporting and buying Divine chocolate and the Body Shop cocoa butter. In the audience was the Minister of Trade from the Ghana Commission, George Fynn, who was delighted to hear the farmers’ story.

Anane and James with George Fynn

Anane and James with George Fynn

After the event we had a nice cup of Fairtrade tea and some Traidcraft biscuits whilst speaking to a few local activist supporters. Then we attended a lecture with some A Level Business Study students at the Croydon College. They were a noisy bunch but as soon as the farmers started talking you could hear a pin drop! And there’s nothing like free chocolate to get students excited!

Following the college we visited the Trinity School and gave two workshops to over 200 boys. We played the fantastic Pa pa pa Bingo game with the 13-15 year olds and hearing them all shout out ‘Pa pa pa!’ at the end made us all smile!

Dinner followed the school and we were guests of the Ghanaian restaurant Gold Coast in West Croydon. The lovely chef James took good care of us and the farmers were pleased to meet some members of the Ghanaian community including a gorgeous bubbly lady called Love. We dined on Jollof Rice, Yams, Fu fu and chicken curry. The farmers felt home-from- home and the Divine staff loved trying lots of new flavours!

James presents the Croydon Mayor with a thank you box of Divine chocolates

James presents the Croydon Mayor with a thank you box of Divine chocolates

After the restaurant we visited the Town Hall and met Robert Askey, Croydon Mayor to thank him for his support with Fairtrade. James made a wonderful presentation of two boxes of chocolate to the Mayor which was very moving. Croydon was the first London borough to announce Fairtrade status and have a tireless bunch of Fairtrade campaigners who continue to do fantastic work.

To finish the day, we visited a Ghanaian church called the Bible Life Ministries Church. We received such a warm welcome from the Ghanaian community and both the Divine staff and farmers had a memorable evening. At one point a Ghanaian hymn was sung which the farmers knew. The congregation and the farmers stood up and started dancing and singing at the front. It was such a wonderful moment of the farmers and UK Ghanaians joined together in celebration of Fairtrade. It was very emotional to be a part of it.

When we finally dragged the farmers away from the church, we all drove back with Matt from the Co-op and even managed to squeeze in a quick drive by tour of London including House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St Pauls Cathedral, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.  Matt gave a running history of London and was a great tour guide. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Divine Chocolate and the farmers would like to say a special thank you to Chris Hunt, Rosa Shea, Caroline Pattison, Diana Battaglia, William Quagraine, Deborah Clement, Matt Hale and everyone for making our tour to Croydon so fantastic. Posted by Laura Blake


A Divine Day of Rest

2 March 2008
Divine Chocolate attend a church service in Wales
Sunday was a much needed day of rest for the Divine Chocolate tour. Paul and Kojo from Kuapa Kokoo attended a Mothers Day service at the Park End Presbyterian Church of Wales, Cardiff and spoke a few words to the congregation telling them the benefits of Fairtrade. Afterwards they enjoyed Fairtrade tea and biscuits with the community, a great end to the first week!

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