A cocoa farmer’s Christmas Tree

22 December 2011

Further to Francis’ last post about cocoa farmers’ Christmas, Monica Dadzie of Kuapa Kokoo adds:

Monica Dadzie, Gender programme manager at Kuapa Kokoo

One unique thing about cocoa farmers (and people in the farming communities) and Christmas is the way they mark festivities; They uproot either cocoa plant, plantain plant or pawpaw plant and replant them in front of their houses and use them as Christmas trees and hang balloons on them. The replanting is done on the 24th. Most of these plants survive and most people take their harvest from these plants to the church as offering to God, and others to their loved ones or use themselves.



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.

Democracy in action at Kuapa Kokoo

15 September 2011

Madam Christiana Ohene Agyare, President of KKFU, with members of the National Executive, address the AGM

It’s AGM time again at Kuapa Kokoo – when the 45000 farmer members get together to hear how the organisation and business is doing, celebrate achievements, and debate future issues.  Their chocolate company, Divine,  is invited to report on its progress to its farmer owners.

Kuapa Kokoo organised its Annual General Meeting a bit differently this year. Instead of one enormous event with representitives from all 1400 villages, now  members from each of the 54 districts attend their own AGMs, and then send representatives to the final AGM in Kumasi.  This way, in smaller forums, more people can really take part.

KK members at the AGM

Sophi and I flew to Ghana to attend the final AGM and a week of meetings.  I hadn’t been to Ghana for 18 months – so I was very happy to see everyone again, and particularly to meet up with the farmers who have visited UK over the years.  Many of them, like Anna Awere and Kojo Aduhene Tano, are now on the National Executive Committee.

Sophi addresses the AGM (translated into Twi by Regina Corteley)

The AGM ran over two days at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology – a great university campus with space for all the farmers to gather.  Members are bussed into town, all looking fantastic in best Kuapa outfits, and come with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to participate and celebrate together. Lots of impressive dignitaries also arrive – and Sophi and I are flanked by very stately men in full costume.

There is a full programme – including a comprehensive report on all the different parts of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, presentations on issues important to farmers, and a series of break out workshops, where specific issues are debated.  Farmers are not backward at coming forward in these workshops and making their ideas and concerns known.  Views are then fed back in a plenary session.  Drummers and dancers entertain us during the breaks – and, slightly bizarrely, ‘The Kings Speech’ was showing as everyone arrived!  And of course everyone gets to enjoy some Divine chocolate.

Time to put the motion to the vote

The AGM ends with votes and Sophi and I were invited by the NEC to a great dinner dance complete with Hi-Life band.  Sophi was voted best dancer.

Sophi and KKFU President at KK headquarters

Kuapa Kokoo democracy in action

27 August 2010

Sophi reports from Kuapa Kokoo’s AGM:

Kuapa Kokoo members gather for the AGM

This was my tenth AGM and this time I was delighted to be able to take my son Fenner with me to see democracy in action.

After much consultation, Kuapa Kokoo adopted a new constitution last year.  The biggest impact of the new constitution was to decentralise much of the power and week to week decision making to the 52 districts.  This meant that the AGM was the culmination of six months of elections. First at a village level, then at a District level and finally two representatives, a man and women gather at the AGM in Kumasi to elect the new National Executive Committee 

The AGM is an amazing feat of organisation. Getting 2600 representative from their villages to Kumasi, making sure they have all something to eat and drink, somewhere to stay and place to wash.  The venue was Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Kumasi, the atmosphere was like a party.  Everyone had their credentials checked and were issued with Delegate’s cards.  On the first evening they listen to the hustings, the candidates presenting their vision for Kuapa.

Sophi and Fenner with a kind Kuapa member who stopped the banner from flapping in the wind

Jamila spends a week with Divine

10 July 2009
Jamila Hamze working with Divine

Jamila Hamze working with Divine

Before I came to do my work experience at Divine, I wasn’t aware that their main aim was to improve the livelihoods of smallscale cocoa farmers. For me, Divine Chocolate was just the 50p tasty chocolate bars sold in the school vending machines. But now I’ve met and worked with all you hard-working people. I realised that each of your jobs are unique and that you are all needed for Divine to succeed and run smoothly. I’ve completely enjoyed my work here from packing up chocolate to managing telephone calls. And even though I was nervous, and sounded glum at first (as Natasha said) I still enjoyed it because it was new and a bit of a challenge for me.

I’ve learnt so much about fair-trade, recognising the symbol and understanding its meaning. At school (St Marylebone C of E School), I don’t think that students are aware about Divine being fair-trade and its impact on the producers in developing countries. It would be great if everyone was aware of the need for Fair-trade and the importance of the FAIRTRADE Mark. Knowing that Divine is Fairtrade is great. To be honest it never occurred to me that chocolate, a product most people take for granted, could make such a difference. I think if everyone knew the amount of effort Kuapa Kokoo farmers put in, and the amount of effort staff at Divine Chocolate put in then people would realise how truly amazing Divine is. I also had the chance to cut out LOADS of press columns for Rosanna and was able to read so many great views on Divine.

During my first week, I watched some videos made in Ghana. Some made me laugh and some made me want to cry but it was great listening to their hopes and dreams, and inspiring to know that most of them wanted to be doctors and help others. One boy said he only wanted to marry a beautiful wife and have 10 kids! Their enthusiasm for their dreams of creating something new and imperishable was clearly shown as they spoke so animatedly and passionately. I surprisingly did enjoy tidying up the room downstairs for Tom because I had a chance to think as well as have a look at all the amazing products. If only my mum was there to see the result because then she might stop nagging at me to tidy up my room!

On day 4, I was typing up brainstorm notes for Charlotte, and I thoroughly benefited from reading the ideas. One point that stood out for me was “I wish that chocolate wasn’t thoughtless,” and it made me realise that people DO just go into supermarkets and buy what they feel like and not on what should be educated about the truth behind other brands.

I’m always on the lookout for fairtrade products now and I have made sure that my family are aware of it. It has all been such an amazing experience. I feel I’ve grown more confidence in certain areas and I’ve learnt so many things. I wish all the best for Divine Chocolate and will continue to tell people about all the ethical work that is done.

Jamila Hamze

Kuapa Kokoo in London for Divine Board meeting

9 July 2009
Mr PCK Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

Mr PCK Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

We are here in London again for Board meetings – for Divine USA and Divine UK – along with all the other Board members.  This morning we were interviewed for a feature in the Greenbelt festival magazine. We got talking about the impact of the global ‘credit crunch’ both in Ghana and here in the UK.  For Kuapa Kokoo one of the big issues is the impact on interest rates – paying huge interest rates is having a significant effect on our profitability – and for the farmers, fuel, transport and food costs are all increasing. Here in UK it is also clear living costs are going up for everyone and people are cutting out non-essentials. We hope people still buy their favourite Divine chocolate – it is a little treat – but a very special one. It is the chocolate company we at Kuapa own, and if you buy it here, it is good news for farmers who are suffering rising costs too.  And how can you resist!  Mr Buah and myself like the Dark Divine best – because it’s got more of our pa pa paa cocoa in than all the others!

Mr K Aduse-Poku, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd

Mr K Aduse-Poku, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd

Mr PCK Buah and Mr K Aduse-Poku

Preparing for the Kuapa AGM

3 July 2009
Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Kuapa farmer and National Executive member

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Kuapa farmer and National Executive member

Hello, my name is Christiana Ohene-Agyare. I am the recorder of Kwabeng Kuapa Kokoo Society and the National Treasurer of the Union.

Being a member of Kuapa Kokoo has taught me that whatever a man can do, a woman can also do and even better. The position of recorder is traditionally seen as a job for men but I realized I could perform that job better than the men and so I contested for it and won about 80% of the votes!

I have been appointed chairperson of the planning committee to organize this year’s Annual General Meeting which will be held on the 29th and 30th of July. This is a very big task but i am up to it! The AGM is the biggest event on the Kuapa Kokoo calendar! Over 2400 representatives from the various societies will be attending. We will also get the chance to decide on various projects for the coming year.

I must say that I have enjoyed a lot of benefits from Kuapa Kokoo and Fairtrade: Today, I am better able to look after my family- my two children are all in school. My daughter is in her final year at the Takoradi Polytechnic persuing a course in marketing. My son is also at the University of Science and Technology. I was able to put them in school because my income level has improved over the years.

My village Kwabeng also has a borehole that was built with Fairtrade funds. We do not have to walk long distance to fetch water anymore… there is clean portable water in the heart of the village.

I particularly like being a member of Kuapa Kokoo because it is very democratic. Every farmer is able to contribute their ideas when we have meetings. In Ghana, farmers are normally not consulted before decisions affecting us are taken. They just assume that farmer would like one thing or the other. Most of the time policy makers get it wrong! Kuapa Kokoo however, offers farmers an opportunity to decide for ourselves.

I am very proud to be a member of a cooperative that co-owns Divine Chocolate. Two members from Kuapa sit on their board. It is unique! I do not know any other organization in the world that has this kind of business relationship. People all over the world know Kuapa Kokoo because we co-own Divine and we are very proud of our chocolate company. I wish to entreat more people to buy Divine!