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.

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


Kuapa Kokoo salutes the great work of Gordon Roddick

22 January 2013
Gordon Roddick receives the Citation from Kuapa Kokoo

Gordon Roddick receives the Citation from Kuapa Kokoo

The Body Shop founders, Gordon Roddick and his late wife Anita, played one of the most crucial parts in Divine Chocolate‘s birth – not only by believing in and promoting this new kind of business model where farmers have a significant stake in the company, but in giving the real and immediate commercial support needed to get it off the ground.

Gordon Roddick continued to support Divine Chocolate, sitting on the Board for 11 years, and seeing his vision bear fruit.  He retired from our Board this year – and Kuapa Kokoo made sure of a fitting tribute to him to show the appreciation of the farmer members for his invaluable help and influence over so many years.

In true Ghanaian style, a citation was created for him – and it was presented to him on behalf of Kuapa Kokoo last week by Divine Chocolate’s MD Sophi Tranchell and our ex-Chair Sandy Balfour – both of whom worked with Gordon Roddick from the start.  Here is what Kuapa Kokoo said in tribute:

“If any organization could stand the test of time, then one of such organizations is Kuapa Kokoo.

The success story of Kuapa Kokoo would therefore be meaningless without the acknowledgement of your invaluable contributions.

One thing that makes you unique is your entrepreneurial spirit which gave birth to ‘The Body Shop’. Such a feat could not have been materialized without the unflinching support of your late wife, Anita. But for your investment from The Body Shop, the Day Chocolate Company, later Divine Chocolate Ltd. would not have been born. 

Kuapa Kokoo would like to pay a special tribute to you and your late wife, Anita – for being a pioneer in advocating fairer trade with farmers, for establishing a long term contract with The Body Shop – and for having the vision to support and invest in Divine Chocolate Ltd. Being a giant in the movement to ensuring a better deal for farmers and producers around the world is an inspiration for today’s social entrepreneurs who believe business can be done better.

Because it was The Body Shop’s Mission to dedicate it’s business to the pursuit of social and environmental change, it was manifested in your decision to hand over all the Body Shop shares in Divine to Kuapa Kokoo.

Also, the alacrity with which you chaired the Board of Divine Chocolate and the possibility for the Body Shop to buy Kuapa Kokoo products at the Fairtrade price; and your long stay at the chair of Divine Board has attracted the compliment of the Board, Management and Staff of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd.

The dedicated service you rendered to the course of Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate vis-à-vis Fairtrade ever since our friendship is greatly appreciated.

Sir, the Kuapa fraternity salutes you!!!”


Fast cars, wild women and Divine Chocolate – it must be Norway

23 October 2012

Latest post from Sophi Tranchell:

New Friends Fair Trade shop in Mathallen Oslo

New Friends Fair Trade shop in Mathallen Oslo

Last week I was in Norway for the DLF (the Norwegian food trade body)  50th Anniversary Conference.  The theme was sustainability.  One of the morning speakers drove into the auditorium in a red  Koenigsegg.  I don’t know what it had to do with sustainability but apparently it’s the fastest car in the world – I wasn’t sure how to follow that!  In the evening they had a grand dinner with entertainment, the highlight was Katzenjammer,  a raucous band of women playing a fusion of folk & rock.

Arriving at Oslo Central station the next day, I was delighted to find the full range of Divine small bars in three different shops and even the florist was selling beautiful bunches of Fairtrade roses and Divine chocolate hearts. 

Onto the newly opened Food Court Mathallen  where Friends Fair Trade have a fantastically located stall near the entrance selling the full range of Divine gifts and bars.  I gave a presentation telling the story of Divine Chocolate and the farmers in Ghana who grow the cocoa and own the company.  After a delicious lunch we were given a guided tour of the food court, a cornucopia of food from around Norway to tantalize the taste buds, I would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting Oslo.

Divine gifts at the Friends Fair Trade shop

Divine gifts at the Friends Fair Trade shop

Back to the Friends Fair Trade  shop to discover a whole world of Fairtrade, as well as everything Divine has ever produced, Pants to Poverty, towels from Gossypium, hoodies from Epona, Dr Bonners Soap, tea from Hampstead Teas and Clipper, coffee from Cafedirect, and a massive range from Traidcraft.  They definitely get the prize for the biggest range of Fairtrade marked products any where in the world!


Reporting, voting and celebrating – it’s the 18th Kuapa farmers’ AGM

11 September 2012

Sophi Tranchell reports from this years AGM in Ghana:

Peter Bennett Jones tries out the well at Kwabeng Society

I’ve just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Kuapa Kokoo’s AGM to report to them on how Divine is doing.  On the way there the Chair of Comic Relief,  Peter Bennett Jones and I visited Kwabeng, which is the President’s Society.  It was the first time Peter had been to a Kuapa farm to see cocoa growing and how beans are dried on a bamboo table.  Comic Relief has supported Kuapa Kokoo since 1994 but this is the first time Peter had visited the farmers. He made a nice speech about his family farming in Britain and was delighted to see the water well that Kuapa had sunk using Fairtrade premiums.  I was joined later by Hannah from Twin and Rosie from Body Shop – it was their first Kuapa AGM and a great introduction to this amazing co-operative.

One of the Kuapa Women’s Groups displaying their batik and tie-dye

The AGM was a celebration. There was a great display from the Women’s project with stalls displaying the different products that Kuapa women had made or grown.  Beautiful batiks including ones with Kuapa’s logo, soap from palm oil and cocoa pods, palm oil, garry and lots of fresh produce.

The delegates meeting began with a presentation of the combined offices and conference centre that Kuapa is proposing to build so that all the different parts of Kuapa could be in one building.   They then discussed the use of Fairtrade Premiums; the farmers were keen to receive cash bonuses and machetes but also recognised the need to invest in the business.  The roving medical clinics which had visited 30 districts were held up as a success, as was the women’s project.   Kuapa has invested significantly in internal controls to ensure that they are delivering on their Fairtrade promises, they also run one of the only farmer-run Child Labour Awareness Programmes which has attracted the support of ILO.  The meeting also agreed to a set up a constitution review committee and elected members to sit on it.

Sophi, Madam President and Chief Barima Ofe Akwasi Okogyeasuo II on the top table

The second day was the formal business of the AGM. As we entered, the women, who were very well represented, were dancing and singing Kuapa songs.  The meeting was chaired by Barima Ofe Akwasi Okogyeasuo II, a local Chief who arrived with his full entourage. He had a young man to hold the official parasol over his head for the whole length of the proceedings! He was adorned in brightly coloured Kente cloth and Ashanti gold. There were speeches from the President, The MD of KKL and many honoured guests including Cocobod, Kraft and visiting farmers from Cameroon.

Sophi joins the dancing

Regina kindly translated my speech into Twi as I presented my speech.  I focussed on two programmes that Divine has supported through our Producer Support & Development fund.  Firstly, the membership database, so that Kuapa can look after its members and run its operations more efficiently.  Kuapa now has 65,000 members, 21,000 are women.  They deliver 42,000 tonnes of cocoa which is nearly 1% of the world’s cocoa.  The database is an essential tool.  Kuapa is also doing a pilot series of hour long radio programmes to promote the benefits of being a member of Kuapa and to share important information with the farmers many of whom are deep in the rainforest and very remote.

In the evening we had a great party in the grounds of Kuapa’s offices with a local band singing in Twi, a popcorn machine and lots of food, drink and dancing. Those Internal Control Officers sure can dance!


From the archive: Dubble trouble in Edinburgh

13 August 2012

As we in London bask in the glow of Olympic sporting glory, up in Edinburgh the world’s best creative performers are showing what they’re made of at the Fringe .  It’s this time of year I get to remember fondly the three glorious years  that the Dubble Act Award made headlines at the Fringe – an award we created in collaboration with the great Mervyn Stutter,  host of probably the longest running review show at the Festival. This is how it worked – Mervyn’s hard working team spends the entire duration of the Fringe looking out for some of the best shows, and inviting them to do a five minute taster for the Review.  Together we formulated an award as part of this process – so at the end of the show, unbeknown the acts on show that day – one great double comedy act was chosen to win the coveted Dubble award (sponsored by Divine‘s cheeky little sister brand).  The audience in Edinburgh is notably Fairtrade friendly and the link with our partner Comic Relief added extra resonance to this comedy-loving crowd. 

Mervyn Stutter gets his teeth into Dubble

Mervyn Stutter gets his teeth into Dubble

Being in Edinburgh during the Fringe is a real buzz, there is no public space that isn’t being used to perform, or plug a performance (possibly a few private spaces too).  It was a very special perk to be able to go up there to sponsor the Award (a serious competitor to the famous Perrier Award!) – but the whole process turned into a mini-comedy of its own.  I think my relationship with the wonderful hand-made Dubble Trophy, which was made specially for us each year, was jinxed. It was a large eccentric, but very delicate construction – totally full of Dubble bars. The problem was that, despite every attempt to protect it,  it broke in transit.  The first year we ran the award I only discovered the award trophy was broken hours before the show.  Mervyn looked decidedly unamused.  I managed to find a very kind techie bloke who spent a couple of hours gluing it back together for me.  Come the time for the show – all we could do was pray and cross our fingers that it wouldn’t fall apart on stage. I think I may have lent over and whispered “be careful with it, it’s fragile” to the winners.  It was ok – relieved drinks all round afterwards. 

The next year…. it happened again.  This was seriously not a joke.  I called HQ in a panic – and Sophi guided me to the nearest DIY/model-making store – where I bought my own hot glue gun. Not an implement I was that familiar with.  I spent most of that night working out how to use it, and applying liberal splots of hot glue to the broken trophy.  Success – it didn’t fall apart on stage – disaster averted again.  The following year I took the glue gun with me,  and with an experienced hand, applied a few blobs to all the weak looking points.  I felt like an Edinburgh veteran.

The winners of the Dubble Act Award have all gone on to be really successful – in 2003 it was Laurence and Gus (Laurence Howarth and Gus Brown – both behind some great comedy writing for TV) and the great Barry Cryer handed over the award.

Barry Cryer presents Laurence and Gus with their Dubble Act Award

Barry Cryer presents Laurence and Gus with their Dubble Act Award

In 2004 the winners were the extraordinary and very physical Japanese mime act Gamarjobat – who have gone on to be internationally famous. Top comedian Dara O’Briain presented this one – and Gamarjobat mimed their surprise and appreciation!

Dara O'Briain presents Dubble Act Award to Gamarjobat

Dara O’Briain presents Dubble Act Award to Gamarjobat

And the 2005 Dubble Act Award winner was US comedy duo Pajama Men – who have also become a comedy phenomena all around the world – and have just been back in Edinburgh where they first had their big UK success. Comedian and TV Presenter Sue Perkins joined the show to present the Award.

Pajama Men win the Dubble Act Award 2005

Pajama Men win the Dubble Act Award 2005

Sadly we then decided, despite having so much fun with the Dubble Act Award, we needed to focus our time and resources on more children-oriented initiatives – Dubble’s heartland – so 2005 was the last time a comedy duo could bag this prestigious award.  It would be great to know if some expert gluing has meant these extraordinary trophies are still adorning mantlepieces in pride of place – or at least being extremely efficient much-loved doorstops. 

But we haven’t stopped celebrating other great Dubble Acts!  Dubble fans will know that last year we started a smashing partnership with Dennis and Gnasher of the Beano.  We’re delighted to say Dubble and Dennis & Gnasher are still big pals – and look out for another Dubbly brilliant new launch PLUS a really famous TV duo getting in on the act in the Beano this autumn!!

Dubble gets together with another cheeky double act

Dubble gets together with another cheeky double act


A cocoa farmer remembers his first trip to UK

29 June 2012

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:

Elias Mohammed

Elias Mohammed by his scales at Bayerebon3 (photo: Kim Naylor)

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!).

Elias asked if he could visit a farm – here he is with Agnes and Wendy meeting Martin at Ripple Farm in Kent

Elias talking to pupils at Dunbar Primary School

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.

 


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