Unwrap a bar of Divine Chocolate and you’ll find…not a golden ticket, but the story of one of the company’s owners.
Peel back one more —why not? Life is short!—and the stories inside may continue to surprise you. That’s because, as the only fair-trade chocolate maker owned by a farmers cooperative, Divine Chocolate has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of growers, many of them now-powerful women.
With profits shared by its family of cocoa producers, a cooperative of farmers in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo, which means “good cocoa,” has turned out to be a great deal for cocoa growers and their children.
In a country where women are not always given the tools they need to succeed, Kuapa Kokoo has provided a delicious array of resources to empower women workers and their families.
For instance, Kuapa Kokoo has recently started a program to distribute 100 free bamboo bicycles to children of co-op member growers. Many of the children, between the ages of 9 and 16, normally have to walk over 4 miles to school.
To keep jobs in the local economy, Kuapa Bikes and Divine Chocolate worked with Ghana Bamboo Bikes, an enterprise that trains young people to make and fix bikes, using local bamboo to construct the frames. Free workshops, ensure the bikes’ owners have the skills to maintain and fix them after miles of enduring the rough terrain of Western Ghana. (Watch a video about Bamboo Bike project here)
“As a single mother, it was very difficult for me to cater to my children, it was difficult to have three meals a day,” Mary Appiah, Kuapa Kokoo treasurer and mother of seven, told Global Envision.
Kuapa Kokoo provides their workers with social services, worker protections, a credit union, even a weekly radio show that keeps growers in remote locations (many of whom are unable to read) up-to-date on issues of critical importance in the industry.
Through Divine Chocolate’s Women’s Cocoa Farming Training program and the Kuapa Kokoo Women’s Fund, women learn everything from reading, writing and arithmetic to small business skills and new trades—things like soap-making, batik and vegetable gardening—to supplement their income.
Praising Ghana’s leading chocolate cooperative, and its 85,000 member growers, Ms. Appiah says, “They have empowered women in our communities to become leaders, which was not always encouraged in Ghana.”
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