The Divine Story
The story starts in 1879 when Tetteh Quarshie first brought cocoa to Ghana from Equatorial Guinea. Since then, Ghanaian cocoa has developed a global reputation for its quality and its taste. Today it is one of the country’s main exports. Ghana is the second largest exporter of cocoa in the world. Most of the cocoa is grown by small-scale family farmers on 4-5 acres of land. Cocoa farming is a precarious business. The trees are vulnerable to various diseases and pests and although chocolate is one of the world’s favorite treats, the cocoa price often dips below the level at which it pays enough for cocoa small-scale farmers to survive.
In the early 1990's, the cocoa market in Ghana become partially liberalized, allowing for the formation of licensed buying companies to purchase cocoa beans from farmers and sell them to Cocoa Marketing Company that would continue to be the single exporter of Ghana cocoa. A number of farmers, including a visionary farmer representative on the Ghana Cocoa Board, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese, came to realize that they had the opportunity to organize farmers in an industry where their voices were not being heard and set up a licensed buying company that would be run by farmers and for their benefit. These farmers pooled resources to set up Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers' co-op, which would trade its own cocoa, and thus manage the selling process more efficiently than the government cocoa agents. Kuapa Kokoo - which means good cocoa growers - has a mission to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women's participation in all of Kuapa's activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa.
Kuapa Kokoo quickly developed a reputation for being fair and honest. In Ghana, the cocoa scale and control of the scale is tremendously important. A cocoa farmer can easily be robbed by unscrupulous clerks that rigged the scales to cheat farmers out of the full value of their crop. Kuapa Kokoo put power over the scales in the hands of farmers by making sure that each village had its own scale and its own elected clerk or village recorder. Further, through its commitment to Fair Trade and sale of cocoa to the Fair Trade market, Kuapa Kokoo was able to return greater benefits to cocoa farmers. Its membership quickly grew. In 1997, at their annual general meeting, the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo voted to set up a chocolate company of their own in order to return even more benefits to cocoa farmers. And with investment from The Body Shop and Twin Trading, and support from Comic Relief and Christian Aid, Divine Chocolate was born.
Divine Chocolate is today a leading Fair Trade brand in the UK and a pioneer in the world of socially responsible enterprise. The success of Divine means that farmers have a secure source of Fair Trade income that continues to grow year on year. Kuapa Kokoo has invested its Fair Trade income in building schools, sinking wells for clean drinking water to villages, providing mobile medical clinics for farmers in remote growing regions, and fostering women’s income generation projects to help women earn additional income for their families when the cocoa season is over. The farmers' ownership stake in Divine Chocolate means that Kuapa Kokoo has a meaningful input into decisions about how Divine is produced and sold. In addition, Kuapa Kokoo receives a share in the profits from their ownership shares and in 2007 celebrated the first distribution of dividends from Divine in the UK. To further its mission and further increase benefits for cocoa farmers, Divine Chocolate launched a US company to expand into $13 billion American market. In 2006, Divine Chocolate Inc opened in Washington DC to bring fantastic Fair Trade chocolate to US consumers. The farmers of Kuapa Kokoo own one-third of Divine Chocolate in the US. Additional investment is provided by Divine Chocolate Ltd. in the UK, Lutheran World Relief, Oikocredit, and SERRV International.