Kuapa Kokoo, the co-operative of over 85,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana, benefit not only from the Fairtrade premium on the sale of their beans, but also receive a 44% share of Divine’s distributable profits giving the farmers more economic stability, as well as the increased influence in the cocoa industry company-ownership brings.
Ogunte: What kind of leader are you, Sophi?
Sophi Tranchell: I like to create and articulate a tangible vision with passion and persistence, motivating people to join in and make it happen. Divine makes fantastic chocolate and is 44% owned by the farmers that grow the cocoa, who are organised through Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana.
Our mission at Divine is to grow a successful, global, farmer-owned chocolate company. We are using the amazing power of chocolate to delight, engage, and bring people together to create dignified trading relations. This is empowering both producers and consumers.
Ogunte: On receiving the prestigious Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year award you said:
"I am a passionate believer that, in order to secure a sustainable future for many of the foods we take for granted, we need to develop new ways of doing business that put smallholder farmers higher up the value chain. Our dependency on them – to grow our foods, and look after the land, and in turn their dependency on enough income to invest in their families, farms and communities – needs to be properly recognised in the way global trade is done.”
So, what is your 3 points plan to make this campaign on turning dependency on food, for some, and dependency on income for others, a successful campaign?
ST: We need to:
Ogunte: What is the role of women in the Divine story. And what do they potentially bring about that men don’t?
ST: Over the next few months Divine is celebrating 20 years of Empowering Women Cocoa farmers. We believe in Gender equality and empowering farmers and chocolate lovers alike. We will be putting an icon depicting a woman cocoa farmer on the front of our bestselling chocolate bar, the 70% dark chocolate, and will have quotes from 8 women cocoa farmers inside the wrapper too.
On International Women's Rights Day, we are hosting an event, using the amazing power of chocolate to bring together cocoa farmers, agriculturalists, academics, politicians, manufacturers, supply chain managers, retailers and chocolate lovers. Together we are exploring what chocolate means to us and how important it is to the lives of women all over the world - whether it is how you earn your living and put food on the table or the treat you can look forward to at the end of a hard day.
We are looking forward to hosting Linda and Victoria who are cocoa farmers from Ghana at this event. They will be visiting customers and partners and we will also be publishing a briefing of our experience of supporting Kuapa Kokoo to deliver on their commitment for gender equality.
Ogunte: What ideal conversation would you rather have with (or about) women social entrepreneurs?
ST: How to make business fit for the future, good for our employees, our customers, the community and the environment? I am hoping that B Corp will be a useful framework for this going forward.
Ogunte: Talking of resilience, emergencies and anticipation, how do you and your team cope with sudden changes in commodities price, cocoa, water, the risks incurred by climate change, trade laws change, and local political changes, et al?
ST: There is currently a crisis in chocolate and its sustainable future. The industry has focussed on increasing productivity without considering the potential impact on farmer income, so progress has been slow. To increase productivity farmers have to potentially spend more on inputs and labour and this is a challenge. The climate is becoming more unreliable which is a problem as cocoa requires lots of sunshine and rain, so a dry month can ruin the crop.
There is potentially not enough cocoa being grown to fulfil our appetite for our favourite treat in the future. The farmers are getting older and so are their trees, with the result that they are becoming less productive.
The issue is that cocoa farmers don’t currently earn enough from cocoa to make it an attractive proposition for young farmers who would invest in planting new trees and using the latest farming techniques. Farmers need to have sustainable income to invest in their farms, support their families and to create thriving communities.
At Divine we have tried to increase farmer income by setting up a company where the cocoa farmers own a significant share. Kuapa Kokoo, the co-operative of 85,000 cocoa farmers, own 44% of the company and receive 44% of any distributed profit. We also pay a Fairtrade premium price for all the cocoa that we buy which enables farmers to invest in their farms and generate more income, which is key to a sustainable future for cocoa. We are supporting them to improve their farming practises and to look at diversifying into other crops to improve productivity, income and potentially nutrition too.
Ogunte: What do you know now that you wished you had known from the beginning?
ST: In the beginning it was good not to know how the industry worked – we made an asset out of our initial ignorance, it meant that we could question the status quo.
What questions do your clients or stakeholders never ask you, you wished they did…?
ST: It would be great if they asked us how they can help us achieve our mission!! But it would also be nice if they had asked us what is it about being farmer-owned that is special? Why is that good for farmers?
Ogunte: If you were not doing what you are doing now, what other business, cause or activity would you be contributing to…?
ST: I think that we need to develop a narrative about rights and responsibilities in the world today. I would like to work with children and young people to increase their understanding and appreciation of the value of tax to society and how paying taxes is something to aspire to i.e. One of your contributions to creating the sort of world you would like to live in.
Ogunte: Can you suggest 3 women social entrepreneurs in your network that the world should know about?
Jenny Dawson Costa from Rubies in the Rubble, using fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be rejected to create delicious chutneys while also creating jobs and training for people, and awareness about food waste.
Fatima Ali, the President of Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. She is only 35 and she is now the head of the biggest cocoa farmer’s co-operative in the world. She was elected on a platform to deliver health care to members. She has built a medical centre with a Doctor and two nurses. She is committed to women’s empowerment ensuring that they receive training in skills as well as farming, so they can earn more income and save and use it sensibly.
I’m also an admirer of Elvis & Kresse, co-founded by Kresse Wesling who take an innovative approach to reusing materials that would otherwise be thrown away; they make fabulous bags and accessories out of disused Fire Brigade hoses, an incredibly creative approach to finding new ways to reuse materials.
Read more about Divine Chocolate here.