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


Divine Board hears about new Kuapa constitution

8 February 2010

Posted by Sophi:

While people in Britain continued to contemplate the length and depth of this year’s winter and when it will ever finish, the Divine Directors escaped to the sun, making the annual pilgrimage to Ghana for our board meeting. I have been making this journey for eleven years. Pauline Tiffen, the Director who helped Kuapa Kokoo set up, has been going there even longer, and now we have people travelling from USA and Holland too.

The Divine US Board meeting in Ghana

I sit on a number of boards and getting people to know and trust each other is always a challenge, involving planning days, and retreats etc. But with Divine we have all been making the trip to Ghana to meet with the farmers that own 45% of the company and see their challenges close up. In the process we have also had a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other, once you have shared the experience of changing planes in Amsterdam at 4.30 am you have nothing to hide!

The farmers have had a difficult autumn but seem to have come through with renewed vigour. At their AGM last year they passed a Constitution, the result of a good consultative process. As this year is an election year they are working hard to embed it at a local and district level. They have created an A3 flip chart to use in villages, with illustrations to explain how the new constitution will work for them. There will be much more going on at a District level rather then at National Executive. This should really help to build Kuapa both as a democratic farmers’ organisation and as a cocoa buying company. The flip chart was another lovely example of Kuapa really appreciating that everyone needs to understand and be able to join in the new constitution.

Both the USA and UK Board meetings went well, chaired by Sandy Balfour in his inimitable way, lots of good discussions on future plans, with no distractions. Kuapa took us all out for a Chinese meal – we all sat at a huge round table with a lazy susan, enjoying the company, the spicy food and the G&Ts.

Divine’s board is really representative of what makes Divine special, made up of talented busy people who generously give their time for the bigger vision, a world where the producers have a real say and a share of the wealth they are creating. They represent organisations: Twin, Christian Aid, Comic Relief, Oikocredit and Lutheran World Relief who have worked for far longer to create a more equitable trading system based on respect and dignity. We talked into the night, putting the world to rights. After two days of meeting, thousands of miles of travel and much food for thought, we began our trips home, grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so significant.


Fairtrade anniversary tea at 10 Downing Street

15 October 2009
Sophi Tranchell with Brad Hill of The Co-operative taking tea at Downing Street

Sophi Tranchell with Brad Hill of The Co-operative taking tea at Downing Street

Posted by Sophi:

What a delightful way to start the week! Tea in Downing Street to celebrate 15 years of the Fairtrade Mark.  A wonderful collection of everyday heroes who have made Fairtrade what it is today.  From Justino Peck from the Toledo Cocoa Growers in Belize, whose story has inspired consumers like Bruce Crowther who made Garstang the first Fairtrade town in the world, spawning a social movement across the western world.  There were three 15-year-old campaigners and people from Fairtrade Towns and Cities across UK, and of course Harriet Lamb, the head of the Foundation and lots of her lovely team. 

Sarah Brown hosted the event and announced that 10 Downing Street was now officially Fairtrade, a commitment that meant that when they host international dignitaries for events like G20  they will be introduced to the best of Fairtrade. In her speech she acknowledged role of Fairtrade companies like Divine and Cafédirect and described the impact on millions of smallscale farmers across the world.

There was tea, coffee, sandwiches, fruit skewers and a magnificent chocolate cake, but it was the selection of people that really made the event, a roll call for Fairtrade.  Representatives from founders’ organisations like Paul from Christian Aid which has a network of committed and active supporters, Deborah from the WDM which has continued to expose the causes of global poverty, Paul from Traidcraft whose network of Fairtraders continue to sell Fairtrade goods tirelessly through rain and snow, Kevin from CAFOD, Tammy for the Women Institute.  Louise from Comic Relief which has brought pzazz, celebrity endorsement and money to the party, Brad Hill who helped us get that first Co-op Divine bar on the shelf in 2000 and was part of Co-op brave move to be the first retailer in Britain to convert a whole category to Fairtrade; Chocolate in 2002, followed by coffee in 2003.  DFID who supported the establishment of Divine with a loan guarantee and have continued in their unstinting support Fairtrade though out the last ten years.  Harry Hill was strutting his stuff, he visited Ghana early on to promote Fairtrade banana, and has now leant his name to Liberation the Fairtrade Nut Company you can try Harry Nuts in Sainsburys

An finally the Innovators who were creative enough to think of a different way of doing business and were brave enough to take the leap; Martin Metyard from the Co-op, Andy Good from Equal Exchange, a fair trade workers co-op whose latest products include Palestinian olive oil available through Sainsbury, and Robin Murray from Twin which founded Cafédirect, Divine and more recently Liberation.

With a capacity of 50 you are never going to include everyone but congratulations to Sarah Brown and the Foundation for a impressive turnout and Happy 15th  Birthday!


Dubble Dream Team’s big day out

1 September 2009
Here’s the latest news from Dubble HQ (Dubble is Divine‘s sister brand)

 

The Dubble Dream Team comes to town

The Dubble Dream Team comes to town

 

This week was memorable for Dubble HQ. Why? Because the Dubble Dream Team finally got to meet up for a day of Dubble activities with added Comic Relief! The Dream Team is a group of Dubble Agents who have been specially selected to help shape the future of Dubble and http://www.dubble.co.uk. Dubble HQ has always encouraged its young supporters to lead the way and this is just another step on that journey.

Tudor, Quincy, Jac, Hazel, Izzie and Amethyst make up our Dubble Dream Team. Tudor, Quincy, Jac, Hazel and Izzie were all contestants on BBC1s Election and Amethyst AKA Dubble Agent Girl Guide was the ‘Golden Ticket’ prize winner at www.dubble.co.uk. Sadly Izzie was unable to make it but there will be plenty more opportunities.

We started the day in the chocolatey heaven of the Divine offices! It was hot hot hot in the meeting room (well more like melting room!) so the Dream Team had to be quick with their introductions and gooey choc-tastings! Our brand new Divine Dark Chocolate & Raspberries, and Milk chocolate Butterscotch flavours got the thumbs up, but despite being tempted by these new kids on the choc-block, Dubble remained the Dream Team’s favourite – naturally!

We shared news about our morning including where we had come from and all importantly … what we had for breakfast! I gave a brief presentation about Dubble before linking live to our New Korforidua Dubble Agent Dream Team in Ghana – Dubble Agents Charles, Bighting Boy, Elijah, Little Angel, Planet, Moneisco Lady and Daddy Cash (all children of Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers)! The joys of modern communication meant that it wasn’t always easy to hear one another, but we definitely all enjoyed a good laugh trying to understand what each other were saying.

Dubble Dream Team go up river to Comic Relief

Dubble Dream Team go up river to Comic Relief

After lunch we took a boat up the river Thames and headed back to work. This time at the Comic Relief offices. The Dream Team were keen to join the hall of fame and stopped for pictures in the celebrity lined red corridors. Ruth and Louise were waiting to pick the campaign brains of the Dream Teamers, after which they were split in to teams and set the mission of being Comic Relief funders. It was a unanimous decision to support application number 2 by both teams!

The Dubble Dream Team arrive at Comic Relief for some serious planning meetings

The Dubble Dream Team arrive at Comic Relief for some serious planning meetings

The end of a great day and the beginning of a great joint-venture at Dubble HQ!

A special thanks has to go to our designated film maker, Aisha, who made a short film of the day as part of her work experience at Dubble HQ. Thanks Aisha!


Schoolchildren in rural Ghana talk about their hopes and dreams

15 June 2009
Webcasting in Ghana

Filming in Ghana

I’ve just looked at this lovely little film on the Pa Pa Paa website.

It’s a brand new unedited webcast made by schoolchildren in rural Ghana, filmed especially to celebrate International Day of the Africa Child tomorrow (Tuesday 16th June).  The children, who are sons and daughters of cocoa farmer members of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, talk about their hopes and dreams for the future. 

You need to wait a couple of minutes for the children to stop laughing about being on film (very sweet though!) but this is then followed by some really lovely and genuine viewpoints on their future life and career goals.

One pupil voices her desire to move to the capital of Ghana and become a journalist, while another would prefer to stay in the countryside and be a cocoa farmer like his parents.  One boy would like to have 10 children; while another is keen to earn enough to buy a Hummer or a VW Golf like his doctor-friend! 

Find out more about the making of this webcast which is part of a series of webcasts providing a childs-eye view of Ghanaian life.  Pa Pa Paa LIVE is the brainchild of Comic Relief and Fairtrade charity Trading Visions.  It’s a fantastic facility for schools in the UK to directly interact with students from Ghana, so that they can exchange views on the similarities and differences between their lives.

Visit the Divine website for the full story.