How Divine Chocolate is changing lives

by Lucinda Beeman - March 24, 2017

From the board of directors to the cocoa bean growers, Divine Chocolate is giving women at every level of the organisation a chance to shine. Meet the incredible women behind this delicious chocolate – and learn how this treat is helping entire families help themselves.

When Linda Berchie was in her thirties, she had a conversation that would change her life.

She was in her hometown of Bassingele, in the north-western Bibani district of Ghana, when she got chatting to an elderly acquaintance. They suggested that Linda learn more about Kuapa Kokoo – a co-operative founded by an enterprising group of cocoa farmers in the 1990s.

“This person recommended it to me because they saw that ladies could do well in Kuapa,” Linda explains. “They saw women working with management.”

Linda liked the sound of that, and started investigating. She discovered that Kuapa Kokoo was a cocoa farming co-operative with a reputation for doing business in a democratic, transparent and efficient way; that more than 85,000 people proudly called themselves members and that it grows 7 per cent of Ghana’s cocoa. She also would have learned that Kuapa Kokoo’s motto is ‘Kuapa – pa pa paa’, which means ‘Kuapa – best of the best’ – and that in 1997 the co-operative had taken an unprecedented step: setting up their own chocolate company, which soon after became Divine. Linda signed right up.

Linda has now been a member of the cooperative for nine years. As a small holder farmer, she took advantage of the Fairtrade bonuses paid to members and programmes that helped her upgrade her equipment. And then, in 2013, she was elected her village’s recorder (the person who weighs the cocoa), buying 1,800 sacks of cocoa from her 94 members.

But she didn’t stop there. Just recently she became one of only 13 people elected onto Kuapa’s National Executive Committee, devoting even more time to helping the cooperative’s farmers build better lives for themselves – all while raising four children with her husband, a teacher at the junior secondary school, and farming cassava and plantain to sell and eat.

“I’m happy to join the National Executive Committee,” she says. “I like having a plan before we go out and talk to the farmers, and I’m pleased to be part of the final decision-making. Because of Kuapa’s approach to gender, I feel able to stand for a position. My exposure to the gender programme gave me confidence.”

Kuapa Kokoo also gave Linda her first taste of the chocolate that all of her hard work goes towards making: Divine Chocolate. Divine, which is 44% owned by the co-operative, has two Kuapa members on the board and holds one board meeting a year in Ghana.

“I found it very sweet and palatable,” she says. “I’m proud it was made with cocoa from Kuapa – our cocoa is pa pa paa – it’s so good!”

Shine On

Linda isn’t the only talented, ambitious woman to find a home with Kuapa and Divine Chocolate. Fatima Ali, the President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, sits on the board of Divine and has been using her position to advocate for empowering female farmers; Sophi Tranchell, MBE, oversees the company’s growth worldwide in her role as CEO.

And while these may be the highest profile women at Divine, in every rank – from the boardroom to the cocoa bean farm – incredible women are making a big difference to this farmer-owned chocolate company.

To celebrate their contributions, Divine has launched a limited edition 70% dark chocolate bar, which you’ll find inside March’s Bubble Box. This beautiful bar is made with top-quality Fairtrade cocoa and pure cocoa butter from the farms of Kuapa Kokoo members, combined with other ingredients – like pure Madagascan vanilla and Malawian sugar – sourced carefully from the world’s growing Fairtrade communities.

The proceeds from this melt-in-the-mouth chocolate bar will help Divine and Kuapa continue to invest in women, working to develop the skills and confidence that enable women to play leading roles in the industry. Beyond that, the sight of this beautiful bar on the shelves will help raise awareness of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

“Divine and Kuapa invest in women because it’s shown to lead to better quality cocoa to create the most delicious chocolate,” says Divine’s Gemma Hood, “but also thriving communities. When women have additional income to invest in their families and communities, the skills and confidence to participate fully in their industry and their rightful place and share of voice in their organisation, communities will flourish.”

To find out more about Divine Chocolate and the amazing women making it all possible, check the inside of the wrapper – and try some of this incredibly tasty chocolate, while you’re at it!

The Women of Kuapa Kokoo

Hear what the women of Kuapa Kokoo have to say about their life working with Divine Chocolate!

Juliet Brago: “It’s very important for women to take part in leadership positions, because women are part of Kuapa and they take part in all aspects of cocoa production. By taking advantage of the opportunities Kuapa provides, women learn together how to improve their farms and their family incomes.”

Cecilia Appianim: “Kuapa has opened our eyes to see that everything should be 50-50. If a man has one vote, a woman has one as well.”

Juliana Fremah: “Getting together to form a Women’s Group, which Kuapa encourages us to do, meant we could get a loan and use the money to plant secondary crops. Money from these crops helps between cocoa harvest. Since joining Kuapa we have been able to build our own house.”

Nare Penten: “I joined Kuapa Kokoo because the policies are very good and it belongs to the farmers. Democracy has its own power – that’s why I wanted to join Kuapa.”

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