As Divine prepares for Chocolate Week, the focus is on our delicious flavours – including our rather exceptional new dark chocolate caramel bar. This year there will also be serious talk about ensuring a sustainable cocoa supply for the future, and Divine will be making sure cocoa farmers have their say.
4,800 miles almost directly south of England, in Dadieso, Western Ghana, Mercy Zaah makes breakfast for her family in the dawn light, before setting off to spend the day on her farm. It’s physical work, weeding to keep away pests and ensure the best growth for her trees, and harvesting her ripening crop. She sets off in the late afternoon to get home before the sudden darkness after sunset, with her tools and cooking equipment balanced on her head.
Here in the UK, at around the same time that Mercy is back at home in her village cooking supper on a fire pit in the yard, millions of us are in our kitchens doing the same. We’re worlds apart – but what connects us is that rather special bar of chocolate we’re looking forward to later on, curled up on the sofa watching TV, with a glass of wine.
Mercy is one of over a million cocoa farmers in Ghana – one of the biggest producers of cocoa in the world. Though the demand for chocolate around the world is growing fast, the future for cocoa farmers generally looks very challenging. It’s hard to cover daily costs with income from cocoa – feeding and educating your family, as well as buying what you need for your farm. Climate change and volatile local economies make the future even more challenging. Farmers would like to invest more on their farms, but cannot afford to buy new seedlings or get training in ways to adapt and improve their farming techniques, so the next generation finds it hard to see a future in cocoa farming. .
What sets Mercy Zaah apart from most cocoa farmers around the world is that she is a member of Kuapa Kokoo, a Fairtrade co-operative that, in 1997 voted to set up its own chocolate company. Divine Chocolate was born the following year with a mission to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, by offering chocolate lovers a truly delicious product, and ensuring the farmers were getting a share in the wealth they were helping to create.
Today Divine has led a small revolution in the chocolate industry with all of the biggest chocolate companies converting leading brands to Fairtrade, and thousands being introduced to the world of cocoa farming in the classroom, and at Fairtrade Fortnight events nationwide. Divine’s unique business model delivers four streams of income to the 80,000 farmers of Kuapa Kokoo. As well as income from cocoa they receive the Fairtrade premium which is invested in community improvements and bonuses, a 44% share in distributed profits invested in equipment for farmers, and Divine also directly invests 2% of annual turnover in Kuapa’s key development programmes which aim to improve literacy, numeracy and farming techniques. It’s a model that not only helps farmers invest in their own futures, but also gives them access to greater knowledge about the market they supply, a voice in the industry, and a share in the wealth they are helping to create. Its success proves that farmer empowerment, putting them in control of their own futures, is a viable, successful – and sustainable – model in the mainstream market.
Our vision is a world where chocolate is celebrated and cherished by everyone. And that includes Mercy and all the cocoa farmers around the world. If we want to carry on enjoying the treat we love so much, we all need to ensure we are making chocolate choices that help provide a sustainable future for farmers.
The image above features Mercy with her farmer colleague Mavis outside the BBC