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

Pants! How to love the ones you’re in

19 July 2011

Guest blogger Becky John writes:

Hello Divine blog readers! I’m very excited to be here and am proud as anything to have been asked to write for you by Divine. Let me introduce myself… I’m Becky, the founder and Managing Director of whomadeyourpants?, a social enterprise making absolutely gorgeous pants from perfect fabrics left over from manufacturers, right here in the UK. We do this as a means to provide jobs for women who would struggle to get jobs otherwise.

I left my last (well paid but boooooring) job and started this business because I wanted ethics but I also really, really wanted gorgeousness. At that time.. well.. the ethical pants on sale were a little bit… yoghurt weavy. The ethics were all about the fibres, but I could see there were different ways to get the ethics into knickers. And I wanted lace and SCREAMING colours, at that. And so that’s what we do. You know those stretchy lace shorts that you can get? Well, that’s what we make. In purple, black, red, green, blue, ivory… gorgeous.

You might be thinking, that’s all very well and good, but what on earth do pants and chocolate have in common? Well, just like Divine, we make a product that makes people smile. Our name most often makes people laugh and then ask themselves a questions, sometimes. Just like Divine, we make a product that is unashamedly gorgeous. Just like Divine being owned by a cooperative, we are owned by our members, by those affected by the way we work, and not external folks.

On the 10th March this year, I was delighted and thrilled to speak on the same stage as Harriet Boatemaa, one of the members of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative which owns Divine chocolate. Harriet spoke passionately about how she is proud of her work and has high hopes for the future. When I talk to the women we work with here, I get the same feeling – the passion, the hope, the joy that can come from people having their own income, their own money to spend. I love that by buying something that is, in itself, a gorgeous thing, good can be done. I don’t think that ethics have to be dull or hair shirty. I think they ought to be celebratory. For me, finding a product that a whole load of people want to buy and making it in a great and positive way is a perfect solution. Business is a great way of providing a way for people to help themselves out of poverty. It’s an engine that can drive change. Right here, we’ve already seen two of our workers open their own bank accounts, and one is learning to drive. Another is paying for extra lessons for a child.

Every penny we take from selling pants goes into the business, into their training and wages, and into their families. We believe that everyone deserves a job, support to find one, and the independence that brings. We also believe in things being beautiful, radiant and joyous. That’s why we love working with Divine and are proud to.

In the presence of Divine women

6 July 2011

One day several months ago we had the idea to launch the first Divine Women Awards.  It was born of a conversation with Ingle & Rhode, one of the first licencees of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold in the UK – and we wanted together to do something to acknowledge the centenary of International Women’s Day. We got to talking about celebrating women’s achievements – women who are doing amazing things against the odds and beyond the call of duty.  So the journey began…

Working with Given, the great communications team, Asi Sharabi our social media consultant and his colleagues and Ingle & Rhode we established the criteria for the Award, got it all set up beautifully on Facebook, received the support of campaigner and Eco-Age Director Livia Firth – and opened up for nominations.

And then we started hearing about these incredible women. Women who turn extremely challenging personal situations into positive outcomes for other people. Women who battle red tape, funding cuts, and a hundred disadvantages to create something others can share and benefit from.  The sort of optimism, determination, vision and perseverence that most of us can only dream of.  The sort of women I imagine David Cameron is depending on to create a Big Society, but without any funding.

Divine Women Sarah Holmes, Carline Ikoroha, Lisa Cherry, Livia Firth, Anna Wallace, Lucy Newham, Janice Jinks

Our shortlist of six finalists were from all over the country and had made their mark in very different ways.  Meeting them at the lovely Gore Hotel at our Award ceremony last week was a real privilege – together in one room we had enough ‘can do’ mentality to tackle world peace.  Carline Ikoroha – our outright winner – is indomitable.  She is an inclusion mentor at a primary school in North London – working closely with children and their families – but beyond that she gives up her spare time to creating inclusive environments for children who for many reasons are missing out. From running a breakfast club to a local choir, and fighting to keep the local library open – she is proactively changing lives and giving children self-respect and a sense of achievement. It was great to be able to give her the beautiful gold pendant made especially for her by Ingle & Rhode in the shape of the Mpatap Adinkra symbol she chose – meaning Reconciliation, Peace & Harmony.

Carline Ikoroha hears she has won, and is hugged by her friend Lisa Taner

The warmth and sisterhood in the room was palpable – crowned by Livia Firth who, in joining the judges and presenting the Award, again showed her fantastic support for Divine, and made each finalist feel very special.

Divine MD Sophi Tranchell, Carline Ikoroha, and Livia Firth

Sophi Tranchell, Divine’s MD, introduced our ceremony saying “Women have always been an inspiration to Divine – from the empowered women cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative that owns Divine, to the amazing women amongst the activists and supporters that have campaigned for us, and the chocolate lovers who have discovered Divine and have made it their favourite.”

We hope this is just the start of something really great – and very Divine. To read more about all the finalists read our news here.

The beautiful Ingle & Rhode pendant in Carline's hands