Divine Chocolate is a real fair trade success story. Beginning with structural changes in the Ghanaian cocoa market in the early 1990s, it tells of a growing community of farmers who, by working together, are slowly changing the face of the global chocolate industry!
Divine Chocolate is a chocolate company part-owned by the cocoa farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, a model all but unique in global cocoa production. This means that in addition to receiving all the usual benefits of Fairtrade certification, the co-operative has a say in how the chocolate is produced and sold. Two members sit on the Board of Directors and one board meeting a year takes place in Ghana, and as shareholders the farmers also receive a share of the profits from chocolate sales.
Kuapa Kokoo – ‘good cocoa growers’ – has three aims: to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in all of its activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa.
The co-operative aims to improve efficiency through working together whilst ensuring protection from corruption through weighing, bagging and transporting the cocoa to market and carrying out all the necessary legal paperwork for its members. Savings made through working co-operatively are passed on to members. Kuapa strives to ensure that all its activities are transparent, accountable and democratic.
IN 1997, Kuapa Kokoo’s farmers, already selling some of their premium cocoa on Fairtrade terms, took the decision to invest in their own chocolate bar, opting to aim for the mainstream chocolate market rather than the niche market occupied by most other Fairtrade products. With the support of The Body Shop, Christian Aid and Comic Relief, and the financial backing of the Department for International Development and NatWest, the first bars of Divine milk chocolate were on supermarket shelves in time for Christmas 1998.
Divine Chocolate Inc. launched in the USA in February 2007, and Divine now has an international presence, with its chocolate sold across Scandinavia, and in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, and as far afield as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
Back in Ghana, Kuapa Kokoo continues to grow and develop, with 80,000 members across 1250 village societies. The Fairtrade Premium has been invested in developing farming communities and farming skills, focusing particularly on water, health, education and sanitation to improve standards of living. Kuapa Kokoo has also taken a lead on addressing child labour, and is piloting a number of environmental initiatives aimed at improving productivity and adapting to climate change. The Divine dividends have been invested in Kuapa Kokoo’s business, and enabled farmers to have a new machete for each year’s harvest. Today Kuapa Kokoo proudly produces up to 5% of Ghana’s cocoa, up to 640,000 sacks of cocoa a year!
Adapted from The Divine Story and used with permission.