An update from Divine control centre!

25 February 2010

This week I’m mostly here in the office while Divine people travel far and wide across the UK accompanying Comfort Kumeah and Kojo Aduhene-Tano, the Kuapa Kokoo farmers over from Ghana for Fairtrade Fortnight.  At the moment the farmers are up in Leicester for a great programme of visits to schools and colleges, plus meetings with local businesses. They’ve been interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester and Voice of America!  Next they’re off to Stamford for another whirlwind of events.

Meantime Laura is sampling with Waitrose today, and then off to the Channel Islands, and I’m off to Bath University tomorrow to talk at a debate entitled ‘The inequalities of globalisation: is Fairtrade the answer’.  Sophi Tranchell will be speaking at the Breaking the Mould conference organised by the Financial Mail – giving girls some inspiration about the potential of their future careers.

To find out if there’s something Divine going on near you during Fairtrade Fortnight check out our events diary.

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Joining 3000 farmers for the Kuapa Kokoo AGM

28 August 2009
On overhead view of the Kuapa Kokoo AGM

Farmers gather for the Kuapa Kokoo AGM

I was in Ghana recently to join Kuapa Kokoo for their 15th delegates conference, followed by their AGM in the grounds of Knust University in Kumasi.  3,000 delegates gathered from all Kuapa’s 1,300 village societies making the journey from across Ghana’s cocoa growing regions. Gloriously dressed in Kuapa’s ceremonial cloth, cut to every shape and size you can imagine, men and women, some with their children in tow, creating a real spirit of celebration.  Seth Gogoe from Twin travel up with me, Ernest Adzim from FLO was in attendance with Emilie Persson a Swedish intern and Divine supporter.  Cord Budde, the owner of the factory that makes Divine, was also there. The AGM is always an occasion to meet old friends.

The delegate conference on the Wednesday broke into three groups.  One to look at the proposed Fairtrade premium Projects, one to review Kuapa’s policy on child labour and one to discuss the final amendments to the new constitution. The seriousness and patience of all the delegates despite the heat and the complexity of the discussions was impressive.  This was the culmination of months of consultation.  There was lots of debate in English and Twi (their local language) and when people returned for the plenary, there was a sense of a job well done and the right decision being taken.  The evening ended with a song and a prayer.

Next morning the AGM was opened by the President Mr PK Buah dressed in ceremonial white and black Kente cloth.  He presented Mr Aduse Puko the New Managing Director of the trading company and Mr Arthur the new Chief Officer of the Union.   The delegates listened attentively and voted, and in good Kuapa tradition there was music and dancing to break up the business.  I reported on how Divine had performed over the last year in UK and USA and I welcomed the work they had done on the constitution. Regina translated my speech and Comfort Kumeah stood with me in support. 

Divine received a citation from the President for all the work it has done over the last 10 years – you can see what it says on our website.

Divine MD Sophi Tranchell receives a special Citation from Kuapa Kokoo president Mr Buah, in recognition of the work Divine has done over its first decade

Divine MD Sophi Tranchell receives a special Citation from Kuapa Kokoo president Mr Buah, in recognition of the work Divine has done over its first decade

 A citation was also given to Francis who has worked as a driver for Kuapa since 1993, he had become the chief driver and was now retiring after 15 years service. 

The membership agreed the new constitution and the Fairtrade Premium Project plans and accepted the annual reports.  The Managing Director announced the payment of the Government bonus to great applause, and the AGM voted to invest a large proportion of the £33,602 Dividend from Divine Chocolate in their US Divine business. 

Awards were made for the most productive societies in each area, they included machetes and spraying equipment.  There was also an award made to a disabled farmer who had managed to get his society to deliver 2,000 bags of cocoa.  He was awarded a motorized quad bike and I handed over the key.

Handing over the keys to a quad bike to a disabled farmer who has spurred his society on to produce 2000 bags of cocoa

Handing over the keys to a quad bike to a disabled farmer who has spurred his society on to produce 2000 bags of cocoa

A doctor made a long speech about the importance of health and hygiene emphasising how important it was people to take medical advise from properly qualified doctors and then to take any medicine as prescribed.  

The AGM closed with another song and prayer and members began their long hot trek home until next year….

 

Posted by Sophi


Why Divine and Kuapa Kokoo are unique

29 April 2009
MD of Kuapa Kokoo ltd Kwasi Aduse-Poku in London this month

MD of Kuapa Kokoo ltd Kwasi Aduse-Poku in London this month

My name is Kwasi Aduse-Poku, I am the managing director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd and I am here in the UK to attend the Divine Chocolate Ltd Board Meeting.

I am from a cocoa farming family and I myself have a cocoa farm. I was appointed as Managing Director back on the 1st September 2008. Previously I worked for the PBC (Produce Buying Company), the buying company of the Ghanaian cocoa board. Moving to Kuapa Kokoo has been both challenging and interesting. Kuapa Kokoo is unique among the Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) in being owned by the farmers who sell their cocoa to it. My role as MD is unusual as I am working with the people who are the workers, but also my employers.

I think the co-operative structure is working well here in Ghana – people perform better if they own the company.  It is a challenge running a cooperative of this size – you need to have enough working capital, and make enough profit to help maintain the structure and the principles. 

Having been in the USA for the Divine Chocolate Inc Board meeting there last week, and being here for the Board meeting and other appointments this week has really highlighted to me how important owning Divine is for Kuapa Kokoo.  We not only have our own chocolate company which gives us a stake in the chocolate market, and a Dividend, but also the opportunity to network across the industry worldwide – which gives us very useful knowledge and more influence.  The transparency of the relationship between Divine and its stakeholders makes the company truly unique.

I also appreciated the opportunity to see a little of Washington DC – in fact I got to see a bird’s eye view of the city from 500 ft up the Washington Monument!  I also visited the Washington Zoo and saw their elephants. Back in Ghana we can have problems with elephants trampling crops – the story goes that when elephants are going to water to drink they are very scared they will suck crabs up their trunks at the same time, so they trample hard before drinking to ensure they have crushed all the crabs!


The President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in London

28 April 2009
Mr Buah at the Divine offices for the April Board meeting

Mr Buah at the Divine offices for the April Board meeting

I am here in the UK to represent the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union on the Board of Divine. Today is the Divine Board meeting here in London, last week was the US Divine Board meeting in Washington DC.

I am a farmer with four acres of cocoa farm and I was elected President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union on 13th July 2006, having been elected from village to regional level, and then to national level. I was a Recorder for my society in Twifu-Wamaso in the Central region of Ghana.

At the Divine US Board meeting we heard about the challenges of increasing Divine sales in such a big country, and alongside many other chocolate brands.  We can see the progress that has been made and the potential the company has to grow. 

I am interested in history and I was glad to have the opportunity to see a bit of Washington while I was there with my fellow Board members. We went right to the top of the Monument.

I now look forward to hearing news of the UK operation.

Recently at Kuapa we have been recruiting for the Research and Development department. This is the outreach team that ensures we keep in close contact with all the village societies (over 1200) in the cooperative.  Instead of being based in the offices in Kumasi, these people are now based in different regions – so they are closer all the time to the farmers. One of their priorities is teaching farmers better farming skills and practices – to increase productivity and keep their cocoa quality high and disease free.  The cocoa particularly suffers from Black Pod – I estimate that up to a third of Ghana’s cocoa is lost to Black Pod each year – so we want farmers to know exactly how to prevent it affecting their crops.

Mr Buah speaking at the 2008 Kuapa Kokoo AGM in Ghana

Mr Buah speaking at the 2008 Kuapa Kokoo AGM in Ghana

At the AGM later this year, where all the village societies are represented, we will once again be deciding how to invest our Dividend from Divine. Every farmer got a machete last year – this was extremely popular!

posted by Paul Celestine Kofi Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union


Ghanaian schoolchildren webcasting to UK schools

24 April 2009
Akumadan schoolchildren filming their webcast

Akumadan schoolchildren filming their webcast

Over the last three months I’ve been working on a new service for schools, launched by Comic Relief and Trading Visions, in collaboration with Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate. It’s called Pa Pa Paa LIVE, and it’s an online video broadcasting service, delivering webcasts from a rural junior school in Ghana to classrooms across the UK. The idea is that schools in the UK can post questions online for the young people in Ghana to answer in their webcasts, and post further comments and questions after each broadcast has taken place.

The school that delivers the webcasts, Great Fammis School, has around 300 students and is in the Ashanti region of Ghana. It was built using Fairtrade premium money from sales of Fairtrade cocoa, in memory of the founder of Kuapa Kokoo, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese, who came from the local area. The area has a strong cocoa producing heritage, although tomato farming is also an important crop and many of the children at the school are from tomato farming families.

The students at Great Fammis School are filming the webcasts themselves, and slowly learning how to use a camcorder and computer. We fund a member of staff at Kuapa Kokoo to travel to the school every month to help them do this. It has been an interesting process.

In these rural schools in Ghana, teaching tends towards a rote learning approach, rather than the more interactive methods now often favoured by teachers in the UK. We were interested in stimulating a real conversation between young people in Ghana and young people in the UK, so we wanted to see if we could minimise adult supervision and have the young people film and direct the webcasts themselves. Managing projects and expressing their own views without teachers looking over their shoulders is a new experience for the children, but seem to be getting the hang of it… and rather enjoying the opportunity!

Overall, it’s an exciting journey for ourselves and the students at Great Fammis School, and we’re learning a lot as we go along. Teachers and students may be interested in watching the first webcast the young people made here, and finding out more about the service here.


Norton Disney and Lincoln

6 March 2009

Up at the crack of dawn this morning for a long drive with David and the farmers down to Lincoln, well, first to a lodge in a place with the charming name of Norton Disney. James and I had our customary bowl of Premier Inn porridge, Anane doesn’t eat before 9am so he just had coffee, then off we went.

At Norton Lodge, we took part in a well attended schools workshop, organised by the Lincolnshire Co-operative, who are very active in all kinds of things in this area. The workshop was focused on co-ops and Fairtrade, and Anane and James rose to the occasion, describing clearly the benefits of co-operative working in the course of their cocoa farming activities in Kuapa Kokoo.

Next we took part in the Go Bananas Fairtrade Foundation action:

James and Anane Go Bananas in Norton Disney!

James and Anane Go Bananas in Norton Disney!

We were served a very traditional English roast beef lunch, followed by jam roly poly and custard. Then off to Lincoln to be shown the glorious cathedral, a romanesque gothic masterpiece of substantial proportions. It’s completely flat countryside around Lincoln, but the city itself is built on a hill, with the cathedral on the very top, plainly visible for miles and miles around the city, not so much towering over it as sitting comfortably above it.

Then to Lincoln City Football Club stadium, for more presentations and a chocolate ganache making workshop from David. The combination of James and Anane’s cocoa and Fairtrade presentation with David’s more light hearted chocolate banter made for a very enjoyable afternoon for everyone who attended. We also worked in the Fairtrade Foundation’s Go Bananas action by dipping bananas in the chocolate ganache!
We were lucky enough to be given a guided tour around the stadium by the football fanatic venue manager, Wayne Banks. We also had dinner in one of the hospitality boxes overlooking the stadium. It was a lovely little room for dinner, with a great view: the empty stadium stretched out in front of us, and Lincoln Cathedral rising up behind it.


Wakefield Town Hall Reception

5 March 2009

James and Anane were a good double act this evening at a well attended reception in Wakefield town hall.

James spoke very plainly about what Fairtrade has done for him, his family and his community; Anane focused on the dividends of owning a UK chocolate company, telling us all with a delighted grin that “we farmers own a chocolate company in the UK”, laughing as he invited the audience to enjoy this too.

We also heard a good rounding up speech from the marvellously named Bishop of Pontefract.