Who is your Divine Olympian?

23 July 2012

A topical post from Sophi Tranchell (MD of Divine)

Sophi watches Doreen Lawrence being handed the Olympic Torch in Lewisham 23rd July 2012

Sophi watches Doreen Lawrence being handed the Olympic Torch in Lewisham 23rd July 2012

In many ways the Divine spirit is very like the Olympic spirit – a little player, succeeding against the odds, and winning hearts and changing minds.

So I’ve been thinking about which Olympian exemplifies Divine spirit ?

Daley Thompson was for a long time my hero when he won the Decathlon Gold Medal in Moscow. I had saved up my money to attend the games having watched every televised moment of the Montreal Olympics, and drawn pictures of each event.  And he wasn’t alone. It was a good year for the British; Coe and Ovett brought home the Gold in 800m & 1500m, our fabulous flying Scotsman Alan Wells won the 100 metres, and Steven Redgrave began his 20 years domination of the rowing.

But the Olympic spirit is about so much more then winning. The Jamaican bobsleighers celebrated performance in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary was an unlikely story but certainly embraced the team spirit.

Eric Moussambani Malonga – Eric the Eel

And there was Eric the Eel’s (Eric Moussambani Malonga) valiant performance in the Sydney Olympics, where his time was twice that of his fastest competitor, but he won our hearts and set a new personal best and Equatoguinean national record.  That’s the point of taking part and what makes the Olympics, despite the controversies and commercialisation,  a fantastic, exciting and heart warming event.

So does Cathy Freeman’s celebration of winning the 400m in Sydney, where she waved both the Australian and the Aborigine flag, acknowledging their joint history.

Wilma Rudolph (centre) - Olympic winner

Wilma Rudolph (centre) – Olympic winner

But Wilma Rudolph gets my Divine nomination.    She was the 20th of 22 children born in Clarksville, Tennesse. She had a leg brace until she was nine and they said she would never walk properly.  But against those odds she went on the shine in Rome, winning three Gold medals in the 1960 Olympics 100 metres, 200 metres and 100 metre relay.  When she returned to her home town which was still segregated, she insisted that the civil reception was mixed otherwise she wouldn’t attend.  Her story seems still untold, but it is the story of how change happens through the determination of spirited individuals who collectively make a difference.

That is how Divine is here today, and how the farmers who grow the cocoa have finally been acknowledged and got a place at the table.

Let us know who your Divine Olymipan is – either post it here on our blog – or on Facebook


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.

 


A Divine Experience at Kuapa Kokoo

8 February 2012

As the Brand Manager for Divine Chocolate USA, I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo for the first time.  Divine USA and Divine UK were both holding their Board meetings at the Kuapa Kokoo headquarters in Kumasi, Ghana and I was able to come along.  Before heading to Ghana, I made a pit stop in London where I was able to meet the trailblazing staff of Divine Chocolate Ltd. who I’ve been in touch with since the beginning of my work with Divine in Washington D.C.

The Divine UK headquarters

It was great to finally shake hands with the folks who I’ve been in touch with via phone and email for so long! I took some notes of several of the special features they had in their office that we could replicate in our own, such as the incredible spread of all of our flavors at the reception desk, and a conference room surrounded by posters and products from years past to inspire the many meetings and brainstorming sessions that occur in the Divine Headquarters.

After a crisp morning walking along the River Thames and one last photograph of Tower Bridge, I flew to Accra with the Divine Board of Directors, where we would have a short stay before heading to our final destination: Kumasi.  10 of us piled into a van in Accra and soon got stuck in some incredible traffic! Sitting in traffic did, however, provide us with the opportunity to be a captive audience to the vibrant scene of street merchants, church-goers, and soccer fans.  We were then off to the canopy walk above the trees of Kakum National Park.

But first, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant that was surrounded by a lake of crocodiles.  And for those of us brave enough, we had the opportunity to touch a crocodile lazing under the trees.

David Upton, Finance Director of Divine UK, gets close with a crocodile

Carol Wills, Board member of Twin Trading and Divine UK, crosses the forest canopy

Kakum National Forest was established in 1960 and covers 375 square km in the Central Region of Ghana.  Its highlight is the Canopy Walkway, made up of 7 different bridges towering above the forest floor.  It was a once in a lifetime experience to cross the canopy, and the 10 of us were thrilled to get this unique look at the landscape in this region.

The morning after arriving in Kumasi, we met at the Kuapa Kokoo offices where the staff gave us an overview of their key projects and introduced us to Esther, who would be our guide for the day.  We headed about an hour outside of the city to the Awaham Society in the Effiduase District.  We first stopped at the Juaben Depot, where the district manager showed us a warehouse piled high with cocoa sacks fresh from the harvest.

Sophi introduces herself to the Awaham Society

We gathered under a tree at Awaham Society, where we met some of the key leadership and listened to questions and feedback from farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo.  Awaham Society was first a sub-society, and after working hard for 5 years, they become a full society in 2005.  They spoke about the benefits of membership in Kuapa: a 2 Cedi (the Ghanaian currency) bonus on every sack of cocoa this season, new machetes, and credits for agricultural inputs that have improved yields year after year.

Juliet shows us her cocoa farm

Everyone headed into the cocoa farm of Executive Member Juliet Brago, who showed us her beautiful land filled with cocoa pods and interspersed with avocado trees and other grand shade trees that kept the cocoa plants growing strong.  We also visited the 12 acres of Mr. Anare Mensah, the oldest member of the society.  Nana Aggyei Bada showed us how the farmers break open the pods and ferment them inside banana leaves, carefully sealing the cocoa inside the leaves to ensure sufficient heat is created for fermentation to occur.

Nana Aggyei Bada shows us how the cocoa is fermented in banana leaves

Richard Agyapong shows us the drying process

Once the beans are fermented, they are brought back to the homes of farmers to dry- we were shown the process by Richard Agyapong, who churned the beans and picked out those of inferior quality.  The last thing we were shown was the corn mill that the society had bought through the assistance of Kuapa Kokoo 4 years ago.  Before the mill, farmers and community members would have to travel long distances to grind foodstuffs, but now they had a space in the center of the community to take care of it.  Isaac Kronkiye, the man who manages and maintains the mill, showed us the process.

Grinding corn in the mill

A very happy chocolate taster!

We thanked the farmers of Awaham Society for taking the time to show us the careful process of cocoa harvesting and share their stories of what it’s like to be members of Kuapa Kokoo.  We left them with a tub of milk chocolate to share amongst the community so that they could each have a taste of the chocolate company that they co-own.

The next couple of days were filled with meetings at the Kuapa Kokoo headquarters and seeing the sights of the incredible city of Kumasi.  Kumasi is home to the largest street market in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we were overwhelmed with the sights and smells of this bustling market. I also picked up a good amount of fabric to take home!

Just minutes before we hopped in the car to head to the airport, Monica Dadzie, the manager of Kuapa Kokoo’s gender program, showed us some incredible batik work that a women’s group had recently been working on- how Divine!

Divine batik fabric

My first trip to Kuapa Kokoo was a truly incredible experience, and after working at Divine Chocolate for just over a year now, my inspiration to share the Divine story to the consumers of the US is fully renewed.  Here’s to a fabulous 2012 for Divine Chocolate!


Christmas comes to Kuapa

22 November 2011

Francis Frimpong

Francis Kwakye Frimpong (of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd) posts on Christmas traditions amongst the members of Kuapa Kokoo:

Amanfe, in the Brong Ahafo region, can be described as a typical settler farming village with land size of about 220 square feet. 300 people live there, mostly farmers. Out of this number, over 45 are Kuapa members. About 650 bags of cocoa are produced at Amanfe.

On my recent visit I talked to people there about how they celebrate Christmas. I first met up with the leader of the community, Nana Asamoah Yeboah, himself a Kuapa member, who said their Christmas season starts on the night of December 24th when they plant a ‘Christmas’ tree, build a hut around it out of palm leaves,  and decorate the hut with flowers and balloons.

Early morning of 25th December is dedicated toremembering relatives, friends and other members of the community who have passed on to the next world. This they do by pouring a libation. Afterwards, the elders make toasts in schnapps andother drinks before they attend church services. They do all this to commemorate their dead ones.

 The children are ushered into the festive mood when the family returns from church. The parents and other relatives give them treats of balloons, minerals, biscuits and toffees to enjoy.

The merry making continues the following day, 26th December – a day dedicated to cooking ‘extra-ordinary’ foods fit for the occasion. Some of these dishes are sent to the homes of loved ones and vice-versa. Rice and fufu,with goat or chicken meat are the commonfoods enjoyed by the community during the Christmas festivities.

In celebratory mood (image by Elizabeth Hudson)

26th December is also the day when the children put on their best clothes to visit relations and family friends in other villages. At times, the children are accompanied by the parents during these visits as they too use the opportunity to exchange fraternal season’s greetings. 

Madam Mary Yeboah another Kuapa members in the community added that preparation for Christmas starts way back in October when the new cocoa season is declared open by the government.

According to her, as soon they receive money from the sale of their cocoa, deductions are made as to how much they would re-invest into their farming and children’s education, the rest is used in purchasing items that would be needed to celebrate the yuletide.

Asked to name specifically some items they buy in advance for Christmas, Georgina Kumi Afari mentioned sardines, eggs, chickens, biscuits, oil, rice, yams, cloths, materials as some of the items they buy ahead of the season.

On the menu for Christmas? (Image by Kevin Gould)

In a year that they don’t produce much, the farmers cut short their celebrations and return to the farms on the 27th which is supposed to be a holiday, but only in a year that they get maximum returns; theday is observed as a rest day by the whole community.

Amanfe community,  like most communities in Ghana also use NewYear’s day to adopt resolutions after church service. Among some of their NewYear resolutions are; measures for improving their farms, improvements for children’s education, new businesses and projects they intend doing in addition to their farms.

On a community level, Amanfe has been able to build its own school for their children’s education and  a clinic which still needs staff at the moment.

Their aim for the coming year is to build teachers’ quarters and also to acquire good clean drinking water.


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


Kuapa Kokoo opens a new school

12 August 2010

Sophi reports from Ghana…

Monday 2nd August 2010: After driving for about an hour and a half from Kumasi, we arrived in Amankwatia to attend the formal opening of the new Junior Secondary School that Kuapa Kokoo has built. It was sponsored by The Manchester Co-operative to celebrate 5 years of sourcing Fairtrade cocoa from Kuapa.  They were also celebrating the building of the teacher’s house which had been paid for by Cord Budde the owner of the factory that makes Divine and The Co-operative’s Truly Irresistible range.

Celebrating the new school

Despite the fact that the village had no electricity we arrived to the heavy beat of the sound system run by the young men of the village to the delight of the children who were all strutting their stuff.

Once everyone had arrived, we sat under a canopy to protect us from the burning sun while we listened to the formal business. 

Ms Juliana Fremah

Ms Juliana Fremah, who is on the National Executive Committee (NEC) and is from Amankwatia, made the first speech welcoming us all to the village.  Ms Comfort Kumeah, the Chair of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust, who had commissioned the school, spoke about how proud Kuapa was to build the school in this village and how important it was that farmers sell all their cocoa to Kuapa so that the co-operative can flourish and deliver more benefits to farmers.  Nicholas Adjei-Gyan was the MC and introduced children from the village performing dances and singing songs and doing role play illustrating how important it was to educate your daughters. 

Role play - why educate your daughters!

Ms Comfort Kumeah

The local representative from the Salvation Army which is going to run the school was keen to see if anyone can supply desks and chairs for the children to use.  I made a speech on behalf of The Co-operative and Cord Budde celebrating the formal opening of the building, and emphasizing that is was only possible because of Kuapa Kokoo, and that all the farmers should continue to sell their Pa Pa Paa cocoa to Kuapa so that Divine and The Co-operative can continue to support them by buying their cocoa.

 Nana Wiafe Akenten III then unveiled the plaques, first in the school and then in the teacher’s house and everyone looked inside  Then a celebratory feast of food was shared by everyone.    

Nana Wiafe Akenten III

The teacher's house funded by Cord Budde

NB Junior Secondary schools are for children from 13-15 (at this age education is no longer free).  It hopes to have 75 children in 3 classes.

Good luck from another feisty Ghanaian player!

2 July 2010

The Ghana Black Stars have done it again – the only African team still in the World Cup.  We’re supporting the team with an ad in the Metro on Friday – so proud to be Ghanaian!

Divine's ad in the Metro supporting Ghana in the World Cup


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