Can you help Sara raise money for a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

15 May 2013

Sara isn’t just cycling 180 miles with MITIE Revolution for fun – she’s also aiming to raise money for the next Kuapa Kokoo kids camp. Here’s a post about how you could help…

I’m fundraising for a Kuapa Kids Camp, being held from 11th-13th July 2013 in Kumasi, Ghana.

Taking part in a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

Taking part in a Kuapa Kokoo kids camp

The Kuapa Kids Camps are residential camps for young people from rural cocoa growing areas organised by Trading Visions in collaboration with Kuapa Kokoo.  Trading Visions is an educational charity set up by Divine to amplify the voice of cocoa farmers in West Africa, and particularly to link young people in Ghana with their contemporaries here to learn more about issues at either end of the supply chain.

The Kids Camps are brilliant for boosting the confidence and educational attainment of the students. They also help to energise their schools by increasing the active participation of teachers, parents and the local community in the schools.

Getting stuck into a Kids Camp project

Getting stuck into a Kids Camp project

We also use the Kids Camps to work with the children in Ghana to help create educational materials on Fairtrade chocolate for young people in the UK.

At the next Kuapa Kids Camp, around 70 children from rural cocoa growing families will be coming together for three days, many of them leaving their villages and mixing with children from other schools for the first time.

They learn about Fairtrade and their role in the global chocolate supply chain, and issues such as nutrition, child labour, health, and girls’ education.

The Kids Camp cost will be £7,000. The Hull Fairtrade City Project has pledged £2,000 to help fund it, plus another £1,500 of match funding for any money we raise.

Please help by donating to this important education project for children living in rural farming villages in Ghana.  Click here for my fundraising page.

Thank you!

What Divine did for Fairtrade Fortnight – a pop up chocolate shop story

19 April 2013
The Divine Pop Up Shop

The Divine Pop Up Shop

Click here to see  a lovely short film packed with all the fun we had during Fairtrade Fortnight – our pop shop in Covent Garden, visits to BudgensWhole Foods and Oxfam with Kuapa farmers Mary and Esther – and lots of chocolate tasting…. and dancing

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.


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

A meeting of co-operatives – The Co-op and Suma visit Kuapa Kokoo

13 February 2013

Here’s Divine’s Wendy Rowan reporting on her first trip to Ghana:

Saturday 19th January

We left a snow bound London to arrive in Accra at 10.30 at night with the temperature at a humid 32 degrees. The heat just hits you, right there, at the back of the throat, taking your breath away. Immigration procedure was long and tortuous in the non air-conditioned airport terminal – embarkation cards completed, signed & handed over, iris recognition image scanned, finger prints taken, yellow fever inoculation certificate checked. Our driver was waiting in arrivals and we sped away for our first night in Ghana at the Airside Hotel. 

Lots of these little chaps at our hotel

Lots of these little chaps at our hotel

We were a party of five – myself and my colleague Alistair Menzies from Divine Chocolate, Jenny Dixon and Rachael Gray from The Co-operative and Jenny Carlyle from Suma, the wholefood wholesaler worker’s co-operative in Elland, Yorkshire.

Sunday 20th January

Sunday morning we were up with the cockerels and breakfasted in the Zara restaurant. A splendid buffet catered for everyone’s tastes and offered a delicious choice from fresh pineapple & papaya to rice and spicy beef curry.

Today was going to be a leisurely day visiting tourist attractions and making our way to Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. We were collected by our drivers who were going to accompany us on the whole trip – Enoch, Joe and Abdulai.

The forbidding door leading to a holding room for slaves at Elmina Castle

We set off westward to Elmina Castle. Built by the Portuguese traders in the late 1400’s, the castle was built to protect the gold trade. But following its capture by the Dutch in 1637, it came to serve the Dutch slave trade with Brazil and the Caribbean. The Castle housed luxury suites on the upper levels for the European governor, traders and soldiers. The slave dungeons below were cramped, dark and filthy cells housing up to 600 men and 400 women at a time. The governor could look down from his balcony on to the courtyard where the women slaves would be lined up and he could choose his companion for the night. At the seaboard side of the castle was the infamous “Door of No Return” through which the slaves passed through one by one to board to waiting ships that would take them on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic. Over three centuries it is estimated that 60 million slaves were captured with only 20 million surviving capture, imprisonment and the journey to the New World. We all knew something about the slave trade but to see where the slaves were imprisoned in dark, dank, squalid conditions brought home the true horrors endured by Africans for three centuries.

We continued 4 kilometres from the coast to the Hans Cottage Botel where we stopped for lunch. Holiday cottages and a restaurant situated in a lagoon which is home to crocodiles, turtles and many birds. Although the crocodiles are said to be friendly, we weren’t going to risk getting too close and stuck to taking photos from behind the safety of the wall.  We were however, very adventurous with our choice of food and all opted for the Ghanaian traditional fayre of beans, rice and fried plantain. And very tasty it was too.

A big smile from the croc

A big smile from the croc

Next stop was the Kakum Rainforest National Park. Here a 40m canopy walkway suspended between trees gives a breathtaking view of the forest. We shared the experience with a group of ladies and gents in their Sunday best – men in their brightly coloured printed shirts and the ladies beautiful in their colourful traditional African dresses. And with a gaggle of giggling Ghanaian girls on a church trip out to the forest wilds all dressed up in their trendy, western Sunday best. A 20 minute climb through the moist & humid forest, passing indigenous trees which were hundreds of years old and accompanied by the sounds of cicadas brings you to a wooden platform. From here you step on to the walkway – a narrow wooden plank suspended by rope and netting and underpinned by a few steel bars. At the circular tree house there was a choice to be the adventurer and do 7 more walkways or take it easy and do just 3 more or as I did, take the scaredy-cat option and go back the way we came and get on to terra firma as soon as possible. Exhilarated after our adventure, it was then back on the road for the 4 hour journey to Kumasi along the “B” road – a long and winding dirt road, deep rusty

Kakun Aerial Walkway

Kakun Aerial Walkway

red in colour with plenty of pot holes. Either side of the road was forest vegetation – plantain, banana, papaya and palm trees and road side vendors selling their home-grown produce – water melons, pineapples, oranges, lemons, coconuts and freshly fried plantain chips. We passed villages with unstructured layouts bustling with activity and always with a cleared level area for the football pitch with goal posts either end. We were happy to at last to arrive at Kumasi and check in to the Rees Hotel, where we could revive our hot & dusty selves. We ate in the hotel that evening a mixture of European and Ghanaian dishes.

Monday 21st January

Refreshed and well rested, we met up early morning for an unusual breakfast – spring onion omelette with cold baked beans and 4 triangles of barely toasted, sweet white bread. Surprisingly tasty.

Collected by our trusty drivers we headed from the hotel to Kuapa Kokoo offices where we met up with Francis who was going to be our translator and Vincent who was in charge of taking photos & video recording. Kuapa Kokoo is the co-operative of cocoa farmers who grow all the cocoa which goes in to making Divine Chocolate – and own 45% of the company.

The ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi has a population of 1.5 million and judging by the gridlocked roads, the same number of cars. It took time and patience to drive out of the city, the roads noisy with horns tooting and nose to tail with yellow painted taxis, motor bikes, seriously large 4 by 4’s, tro tros – the Ghanaian equivalent of the mini bus, with passengers sardined inside and outside packed high with all their belongings  – goats included tied to the roofs.

The city sprawls on forever with a ramshackle shanty town – dwellings fronted by trading posts selling everything from car engines, doors, coffins, beds, carpets to all manner of electrical appliances. And all along the carriage way are street sellers offering their wares to the hot & frustrated drivers – bags of cooled water, refreshing coconuts, snacks, pieces of  water melon, handkerchiefs, sim cards, loaves of bread, all displayed beautifully in baskets and bowls carried securely and proudly on the head.

Here we all are at Amankwatia

Here we all are at Amankwatia

Eventually the landscape changed to a more rural setting and we turned off the main road and arrived at Amankwatia village. In 2010 to celebrate 5 years of sourcing cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo for their own label Truly Irresistible range of chocolate, The Co-operative co-funded with Kuapa Kokoo the building  of a new Junior High School. Jenny & Rachael from The Co-op were here to see how the school was doing and how it was benefitting the 13-19 year old students from Amankwatia and the surrounding villages. We were welcomed in to the village with singing and hand clapping by about 50 cocoa farmers who had given up their time to greet us. We were introduced to the Recorder Samuel Antwi, the society secretary, the village chief who was also a member of Kuapa, and Adwoa Asianaa he oldest cocoa farmer at 83 years- a feisty lady who looked half her age and who had harvested 20 bags of cocoa that season –   and the youngest at 42 years. As well as the school, the benefits to the village for being members of Kuapa Kokoo and co-owning Divine Chocolate have been the installation of a corn mill, solar panels for electricity, and machetes for each farmer – a vital tool for the harvesting of cocoa. And an opportunity for the women to learn new skills to supplement their income – tie dying and soap making with the cocoa pod husks.

Jenny from Suma learns how to crack open a cocoa pod

Jenny from Suma learns how to crack open a cocoa pod

We took a short walk out of the village in to the forest where the cocoa trees grow amongst the orange and papaya trees. It’s near the end of the season and the weather has been unseasonably hot but there were still pods ripening. We were shown how to harvest a cocoa pod – with care and diligence so as not to damage the trunk, how to slice it open with the machete and remove the beans. We all got a taste of the sweet white flesh surrounding the bean. The farmers work as one team, harvesting, fermenting and drying the beans together going from one farm to the next in what is known in Twi as “ Nnoboa” – you help me and I’ll help you & let’s work together. Having read how it’s done, seen the films on how it’s done, and heard the farmers tell me how it’s done, it was wonderful to actually be part  of the harvest and an honour to be presented with a freshly harvested, weighty cocoa pod.

Returning to the village we met the school’s headmaster and were introduced to the senior class. The students were shy

It's really useful to have a bike

It’s really useful to have a bike

so what better way to break the ice than to ask them to do a bit of Azonto dancing for us! Two willing dancers soon got the class clapping and laughing. On a more serious note, one of the students, 19 years old and luckily still in education, said how much he would love a bicycle to make his 6 mile journey to and from the school a little easier. Many of the students come from neighbouring cocoa growing villages and the time it takes for the journey impacts on their learning time.

Time to say our goodbyes and thank the villagers for their hospitality with gifts of Co-op T shirts, pens and pencils for the students and soaps for the ladies.

On route back to Kumasi we stopped off at the regional depot where all the sacks of cocoa are delivered, weighed, recorded, graded and then loaded on to a truck for shipment to the port of Tema. Rachael from the Co-op, in her role as technical & quality manager was full of praise for the efficient and accurate traceability systems in place.

A dinner hosted by Kuapa staff and members of the Farmers Union was a lovely end to a fabulous day.

Tuesday 22nd January

In the morning we went to the Kuapa Farmer’s Union offices where Esther presented the history and mission of Kuapa Kokoo to give us a first-hand understanding of the workings of the co-operative. We also had the pleasure of meeting members of the NEC – National Executive Committee, the elected members of the farmer’s union. It was a pleasure to meet up with old friends – Elias Mohammed who had come to the UK for Fairtrade Fortnight in 2012 and who I’d had the honour of accompanying around Scotland, and Fatima Ali who I had been with in Cardiff in 2011.

IMG_1253We then headed off to New Koforidua, a village which serves as a centre to a community of 5,200 people. Here the school was funded by the Fairtrade premium and the community house was funded by The Co-operative. The community house serves as a meeting place, library and conference centre. We were welcomed by Walter Alifo, the headmaster and driving force behind the success of the village, and cocoa farmers from the villages and all the students. New Koforidua is a fine example of the benefits of Fairtrade as it is not only twinned with Garstang in Lancashire, the first UK Fairtrade town but is also calls itself the first Fairtrade village in Africa. Important visitors are given the honour of planting sapling cocoa trees outside the community centre – trees planted by  Brad Hill from The Co-operative in 2010 and Sophi Tranchell the MD at Divine Chocolate in 2012 are growing tall & strong. Now the honour fell to Jenny from Suma to plant her sapling. May all the trees flourish and produce a good harvest.

It was photo opportunity time with students putting on this year’s Comic Relief Red Noses and posing with giant Dubble bars – and throwing Divine chocolate coins up in the air to encourage everyone in the UK to “Do Something Funny for Money “ this Red Nose Day.  

We had also been given books to distribute which written & illustrated by the students from Surbiton High School. These were very well received and the students were full of admiration for the wonderful illustrations. We lunched under the shade of the trees and admired the village, the school and community centre. And then it was time to say our goodbyes and head to Kumasi airport and on to the winter cold & snow of the UK.

Women welcoming us to Amankwatia

Women welcoming us to Amankwatia

I have worked for Divine Chocolate for nearly six years and during that time have met a few of the cocoa farmers on their visits to the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight and have heard their stories, and learnt a great deal about cocoa production and the global cocoa & chocolate industry. Actually visiting Ghana and seeing for myself how Fairtrade and farmer-ownership have improved the lives of cocoa farmers at first-hand has been an enlightening experience. Seeing the benefits of trading fairly and investing in the health and education of the next generation has made me more determined to make sure Divine is the chocolate bar of choice for all of us chocolate lovers.

A gathering in the world of chocolate

28 November 2012
Sophi meets one of her brand heros - Boyd Tunnock

Sophi meets one of her brand heros – Boyd Tunnock

It’s good to have a forum where everyone in the chocolate business can get together and share knowledge and discuss issues. So it was great to be invited to speak at Kennedy’s Chocolate Network event – organised by Angus Kennedy, owner of Kennedy’s Confectionery magazine – fantastic to see a great mix of big and small in the audience – from Nestle & Barry Callebaut to Elizabeth Shaw and House of Dorchester.  Sophi Tranchell, Divine’s MD, agreed to talk about “Why should cocoa farmers carry on growing cocoa?” – a Divine perspective on what will incentivise a future generation of cocoa farmers, and how that is key to maintaining a supply of good cocoa in the future as demand for chocolate grows around the world.

It was inspiring to hear the stories from other independent companies like Willie’s Cacao (Willie Harcourt-Cooze told his story of the farm he bought in Venezuela) and the iconic Scottishbrand Tunnocks,  (Boyd Tunnock still runs the company which sells 5million of its famous caramel wafers every week, with a distribution to die for). You can hear the passion in their voices and total immersion in what they do.

The event finished with some startling psychological insights about the habits of different kinds of chocolate eater, and Angus Kennedy (dressed in a purple Willy Wonka coat with a chocolate flower pinned to the lapel) giving his predictions for 2013, ending with a reminder that chocolate enhances sexual stamina.  He said he himself has five children to prove it!

The best part was catching up with friends and colleagues – Malachy McReynolds from Elizabeth Shaw, bloggers MostlyAboutChocolate and Chocablog, sampling some fabulous hand-made chocolates made with California raisons by William Curley – and then best of all Sophi having her photo taken with brand hero Boyd Tunnock (who kissed her hand very gallantly and invited her to sail on his boat!). 

We went home very happily with a goodie bag containing a huge selection of chocolates – still exciting after all these years !

A Divine chocolate cruise to Bruges

23 November 2012

Divine’s Wendy Rowan reports on a Divine Trip to Bruges:

I’ve just had the pleasure in accompanying the winners of a Divine competition for students on a mini cruise to Bruges in Belgium.

Meeting at the P&O ferry

Meeting at the P&O ferry

We all met up at the P&O ferry port in Hull and boarded the Pride of Bruges. The 3 students and their companions had made their way from Leeds, Derby, London and Cambridge.

David, the Divine chocolatier, started the evening off with a fabulous presentation telling us about the history of cocoa & chocolate – how cocoa has been around for some 4000 years but used as a currency and as a drink. It’s only in the last 200 years that chocolate has been produced in bars and individual chocolates for us to enjoy.

We were also guided through the technique to taste chocolate using all 5 senses – the look of the chocolate, the smell & feel, the “snap” and the taste. With the Divine story, the benefits of Fairtrade and farmer-ownership highlighted everyone learnt why Divine is so divine.

Discovering the chocolate museum

Discovering the chocolate museum

Next morning we docked at Zeebrugge – (I discovered that means Bruges-by-the-sea) and after a short bus ride we were in the heart of the town. Bruges is beautiful, full of character, with stunning architecture, grandiose churches, bustling market squares, and tranquil meandering canals. We all went to visit the Choco-Story chocolate museum which brought to life all the history of cocoa & chocolate that we had been told by David the evening before.  What I loved the best was the room full of chocolate drinking paraphernalia including the most delicate of bone china cups with a moustache guard to prevent the creamy froth from ruining one’s tache! At the end of the tour was a demonstration of making chocolates filled with ganache which we all got to taste.

Beautiful Bruges

Beautiful Bruges

A lunch of moules frites and then free time to walk canal side, wander the cobbled streets, visit all those famous chocolate houses and do plenty of shopping. Ever shop offered a mouth-watering selection of chocolate in all shapes, sizes & flavours. A chocolate lover’s paradise!

Back on board we re-grouped and made sure our competition winners had enjoyed themselves. “Brilliant” was the general consensus of opinion. We docked back in Hull the next morning and all went on their way home clutching a Divine goody bag full of treats and now knowing how to taste chocolate to appreciate the full flavour. Eating a bar of chocolate will never be the same again!

Kuapa President sees Divine chocolate being made for the first time

13 November 2012

Latest post from Sophi:

If you want to guarantee a good turnout at a board meeting, I can recommend holding it in a chocolate factory!

The owner of the factory that makes Divine, Mr Cord Budde, invited us to have the next Divine Board meeting as his guests in the chocolate factory.  So the Divine Directors made their way from five countries to gather in Northern Germany. It was the final link in the chain, seeing how the chocolate is actually made.

The room where the board meeting was held had been Cord’s grandparents’ dining room. He had fond memories of Christmas dinners around the table .  On the table now were plates piled high with every flavour of chocolate to tempt your tastebuds.

Members of the Board of Divine USA with the portrait of the factory's founders

Members of the Board of Divine USA with the portrait of the factory’s founders

On the wall was a painting of  Ludwig and Luise Weinrich, who founded the factory in 1895.  Cord is the 4th generation to run the factory.  I remember attending Kuapa Kokoo‘s 10th AGM in 2003 with him in Ghana; it was the first time he had seen where the cocoa came from.  Cord and his team have been amazingly supportive of Divine, developing delicious new flavours and helping unpick problems for example, when our chocolate got stuck in the chocolate coin factory!  But he has also supported the farmers directly, building a school house for the teachers in the new school that Kuapa built in Amankwatia.

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Emmanuel Arthur and Andy Goode - happy in the chocolate factory!

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Emmanuel Arthur and Andy Good – happy in the chocolate factory!

Heading into the factory, we all had to don paper overalls and hair nets, a style challenge for anyone!  Then we had to wash and disinfect our hands to make sure we didn’t carry in any germs.  As you enter the heat hits you , then the low hum of the vats and finally the pervading smell of chocolate.   Throughout the visit  we see the whole process from roasting and grinding the beans, making cocoa mass, adding the sugar and milk, conching for hours in big vats to ensure the smooth consistency, nozzles depositing liquid chocolate into molds which are chilled, and the bars turned out, wrapped and packed in boxes through a maze of conveyor belts, pipes, machines and busy people.  Watching bars with whole hazelnuts being checked and turned over manually was thoroughly mesmerising.

Cocoa mass on its way to be made into chocolate

Cocoa mass on its way to be made into chocolate

It was really good to see President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union Christiana Ohene-Agyare and Kuapa Kokoo Ltd MD Emmanuel Arthur finally getting to see how Kuapa’s own chocolate is made. They smiled a lot and I suspect they enjoyed the warmth and the increasingly sweet smell of the hot chocolate. It reminded me of the humid heat and distinctive smokey smells of the cocoa farms in Ghana.

As we started to make our way home, loaded down with chocolate, Hurricane Sandy hit the USA coast and USA Directors had the negotiate their way on to the next available plane.

Another mammoth journey and a great adventure for the Divine Board, and another reminder that this is really a very different way of doing business.

Divine bars wrapped and ready to be packed

Divine bars wrapped and ready to be packed


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