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 Budgens, Whole Foods and Oxfam with Kuapa farmers Mary and Esther – and lots of chocolate tasting…. and dancing
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!
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).
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.
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!
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!
Sainsbury’s: It’s buy two bars for £3 on all 100g bars at Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s stocks our dark chocolate with raspberries, 85%, 70%, ginger & orange chocolate and our milk chocolate bars. The offer is on now until 5th March.
Tesco: There’s 25% off all our 100g bars at Tesco. Tesco stocks our 70%, ginger & orange chocolate, dark chocolate with raspberries and our white chocolate with strawberries. The offer is on from 27th February until 26th March.
Waitrose: There’s 25% off all our 100g bars at Waitrose. Waitrose stocks the following flavours: 85%, ginger & orange chocolate, white chocolate with strawberries, milk chocolate, orange chocolate, 70% and dark chocolate with raspberries. The offer is on now until 12th March.
Elias Mohammed took his first flight out of Ghana this year to join Divine Chocolate as an ambassador for Kuapa Kokoo on a tour round UK for Fairtrade Fortnight. Here he remembers his impressions of the visit:
Bayerebon No. 3 society, where I am recorder sees a lot of visitors from all over the world every year! People in my village always asked me one question I was never able to answer “da ben n’abrofo be ba abe fa wo ako won kuromu?” (when will the whites invite you to their country)? I had heard many tales of how beautiful “Abrokyire”(abroad) is and I always imagined myself there.
My dreams came true early this year when I was selected to participate in the Fairtrade fortnight! I was so excited. My wives were elated when I informed them about the trip. I was in high spirits until I was refused a visa! I thought that was the end but thanks to Divine Chocolate, I was eventually issued a visa after an appeal. This problem cut short my stay by two days!
The flight was good and the food was even better. I thought the Airport in Ghana was big and beautiful until we reached Heathrow. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It is so big, beautiful and busy! David of Divine Chocolate whisked me immediately to my hotel after going through immigration process.
My days in the UK were very interesting. I met many people: Fairtrade officials, other producers like me, school children etc. We had a very busy schedule travelling from place to place in England and in Scotland to attend events and give speeches. I really enjoyed the encounter with school children. The enthusiasm of the supporters of Fairtrade and their love of Divine Chocolate encouraged me to always produce beans that are Pa pa paa (best of the best!).
Upon my return to Ghana, everyone calls me “Burger” (a term used to describe people who have just returned from abroad). I feel proud when people call me that. I admit I would have liked more time to go shopping and more sight-seeing, but I think my trip was very successful.
The high point of my visit was people smiling and saying thank you after my presentation.
Latest post from Tom Allen of Trading Visions:
While here in UK for Fairtrade Fortnight, Elias and Agnes had asked if they would be able to visit a farm.
We were able to set up a visit to Ripple Farm, a small organic farm situated in the Stour Valley in Kent. The owners Martin and Sarah were kind enough give up a few hours of their Sunday afternoon to show us around and explain how everything works.
It was great to see Elias and Agnes in the fields of Kent. When Kuapa Kokoo farmers visit, they generally get to visit all kinds of amazing places – from company offices, to town halls, to schools, to national civic buildings – but they rarely ever get into the countryside. Here they were in their element: talking to a farmer like themselves.
They fired off questions at Martin as we walked around Ripple Farm: how do they do the weeding, how many people work on the farm, how many vegetables are cultivated, what sort of equipment and machinery do they use…
Comparing the impact of the seasons and the weather in the UK and Ghana was a recurring topic of conversation. As we stood looking at several rows of leeks, the cocoa farmers were amazed to hear that most of them had been planted twelve months earlier.
“In Ghana,” said Agnes, “I plant maize and three months later I harvest it.”
Martin from Ripple smiled ruefully as he explained that when they plant maize for corn on the cob they will harvest one round of corn each year, and only if it is warm enough.
We walked though a field of brassicas, tasting leaves from various kinds of cabbage, curly kale and cavolo nero. We dug up a swede – Elias thought it was much like yam. We uncovered beetroot from under a winter bed of straw. The farmers observed that you didn’t need to keep crops warm like that in Ghana. They tried beetroot for the first time and thought it was delicious.
Ripple Farm also rent a beautiful Victorian walled garden up on a hill, with a stunning circular wall around it. Here they grow salad leaves in various old greenhouses. One of the greenhouses contained a warm and humid plant raising nursery, which the cocoa farmers loved.
Elias was very interested in exactly how Martin sells his vegetables. Do buyers come to the farm? Do they haggle? Martin explained that they take the vegetables to shops and farmers markets, locally and in London. He tends to set the price, and the English don’t go in for much haggling!
The cocoa farmers enjoyed climbing on the big potato harvester and admired Martin’s vintage 1950s tractor. Despite the fact that Ripple Farm is actually a small, low tech, labour intensive farm by British standards, Elias and Agnes remarked on how many machines there were compared with their own farms in Ghana where the only tool is a machete and everything is done by hand.
Afterwards, Martin and Sarah treated us to a delicious lunch and we took the train back to London.
Did you know that all the Fairtrade sugar in Divine comes from Kasinthula Cane Growers Association in Malawi. Masauko Khembo has travelled over from Kasinthula to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight here in UK. Here at Divine we’re looking forward to meeting him and hearing more about Kasinthula – but in the meantime we asked him a few questions….
KasinthulaCane GrowersAssociation (KCG) is a smallholder sugar cane projectlocated in the in hospitable Shire River Valley District of Chikhwawa in the south of Malawi.Long droughts occasionally result in famine and the twice-yearly rains frequently bring floods.Most families eke out a living growingmaize, cassava or rice on the arid land, whileothers earn cash from sugar cane or cotton or work on nearby sugar plantations. Poverty is rife with most people living in very basic mud huts and few able to afford to keep livestock.
What do you think of Divine Chocolate, which is made with Fairtrade sugar from Kasinthula?
Having tasted it I find it much better in terms of taste than those we buy at home which are made in South Africa. Divine Chocolate and other organisations that use Kasinthula Fairtrade sugar are like bringing divine intervention on reduction of poverty on Kasinthula farmers and surrounding communities. Lives of Kasinthula farmers and surrounding communities have really been transformed through FT.
What is the most important impact that being Fairtrade certified has made on the lives of sugar farmers in Malawi?
So much impact. Not only on sugarcane farmers but even the communities around the sugarcane farms. One example I would give is the primary school that has been constructed using Fairtrade premium funds. Before the school construction children had to walk more than 5km to the nearest school. For them to be able to walk such distance they had to be 7 or 8 years old. With the school they are able to start school at 5. Because of starting school late most girls could not complete primary school before getting married. With the school they will be in eighth grade which is the last in primary school at the age of 13. They should be able to go to secondary school before they think of getting married.
Kasinthula farmers are now living in better houses (brick walled and iron sheet roofed). Most of them have houses that are electrified. They now have access to portable water separating them from livestock in terms of sharing source of drinking water.
What are your hopes for the future – for you personally – and for Kasinthula? What is your message for people here in the UK (and the USA where Divine Chocolate is too)?
Personally my hope is to work for a bigger Kasinthula with more farmers than currently are. A bigger Kasinthula means more people getting out of a poverty trap. For the people in UK and US my message is buy more of Divine chocolate. There may be more brands of chocolate in the market but by buying Divine chocolate you are supporting famers and surrounding communities at Kasinthula. You are sponsoring construction of schools, improving maternal and child health of the people of Kasinthula, you are preventing sharing of drinking water between animals and people as people are now drinking from boreholes drilled using premium funds while animals continue drinking from rivers.
Fairtrade Fortnight is the most full-on and extraordinary two weeks of our year (not to mention all the time planning it) and we, and the farmers, meet more fantastic people in 14 days than one would hope to in a whole year. It’s exhausting – but amazing. (And big thanks to Tal for co-ordinating the whole thing)
While the wonderful events and brilliant audiences are what we hope and aim for – it can be some of the small things that create some of the best memories. Here are some of mine….
Harriet and Fatima learned to say “Fabulous”, “Marvellous” and “Outstanding!” while they were on this trip – for example when they really mastered going up and down on the escalators – Harriet announced they were “Outstanding!!”
It was some of the people we just bumped into by chance that gave us a real feelgood experience – like the ticket man at London Bridge tube who was really interested in who the farmers were and why they were here, and said how many of his friends were Ghanaian and how great he thought Fairtrade was. And Giles the sound engineer at BBC who connected the interview down the line with “Costing the Earth” – who confessed he was an enormous Divine fan. And the Hungarian girl working in the Bermondsey Street Teapod who was amazed to be introduced to two of the cocoa farmers behind Divine – “it’s my absolutely favourite chocolate,” she cried, “and I should know, I have tried them all!”. (Nice to be able to tell her you can now buy Divine in Hungary).
Meeting up with other producers is always special too – Harriet and Fatima were introduced to Dyborn from Malawi (where the nuts for Harry’s Nuts come from) – and there’s an instant affinity between fellow Africans and fellow farmers.
And finally – on our last afternoon together (returning from a mega shopping session in town) – great excitement behind me and lots of pointing. They had spotted a squirrel and their immediate response was to ask if we could kill it for bush meat. I had to concur about the frequent desire to kill squirrels (from a gardener point of view) but not so sure about the bush meat part of it…. we left him to cause more havoc in South East London.