By Monique Buckner
It all started with an idea from leading farmers on the Ghana Cocoa Board. Nana Frimpong Abrebrese in particular, saw the opportunity in setting up farmers in a company to sell their own cocoa to the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC). The CMC is state-owned and is the single exporter of Ghana cocoa. Together these farmers formed the co-op Kuapa Kokoo, which means good cocoa growers. Their mission is to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in all of Kuapa’s activities, and to cultivate cocoa through an environmentally friendly method.
Kuapa Kokoo’s motto is pa pa paa – which means “the best of the best” in the local Twi language. With this in mind, Kuapa farmers decided rather than targeting the niche market, they would produce a mainstream chocolate bar to compete with other major brands in UK. Together with Twin Trading, Kuapa helped set up The Day Chocolate Company in 1998. Their Divine Fairtrade milk chocolate bar was on store shelves beginning December 1998.
The farmers’ ownership stake in The Day Chocolate Company, a first in the fair trade world, means the Kuapa Kokoo co-op has a meaningful input in how Divine is produced and sold. Trading its own cocoa and managing the selling process more efficiently, farmers receive more profits and benefits. As shareholders, the farmers also receive a share of the profits from the sale of Divine. This company structure awarded Divine the Millennium Product status. Along with this award and shareholder benefit, farmers join because of the democratic, transparent, and accountable characteristics of the process. Mercy Zaah joined in 1999 because of “how they care for their farmers…It’s good for women in Kuapa Kokoo. We learn skills to help us generate more income for the family, and also have a voice in decision making in the co-operative.” Currently, Divine Chocolate has more than 65,000 members organized in approximately 1400 village societies.
For over 15 years, Divine has made even more impact by contributing a percentage of its gross revenue each year into a Producer Support and Development Fund. From this fund, Kuapa Radio has emerged, spreading information sharing, debate, and conversation about important issues. This radio talk show and call-in program aims at improving farmers’ access to information. This creates well-informed shareholders as well as a stronger co-op. Additionally, the fund invests in training women; women are more likely to be cheated due to lack of literacy and other factors. Through this training effort, local women have improved their income. This allows more girls to be in school, thus educating and empowering a new generation.
Divine Chocolate has evolved very quickly over the years from a simple idea into a booming social enterprise. It was created by the people, for the betterment of the people. Divine Chocolate has identified a problem, found a sustainable solution, and given back to the community all while remaining divine and delicious.