In 2015, Divine Chocolate was delighted to welcome Kuapa Kokoo farmer Esther Mintah Ephraim to the UK for her second visit (the first one in 2013). Read on below to learn more about Esther’s experience, as written by Esther herself.
Dear chocolate lovers of UK,
I am very happy to be in UK for my second visit, and I’m proud to represent my co-operative Kuapa Kokoo and our company Divine Chocolate during this year’s Chocolate Week.
My name is Esther Mintah Ephraim. I’m 31, and I’m a cocoa farmer from Agyedum village in the Western Region of Ghana. I farm the family farm of 38 acres and produce 40-50 sacks of cocoa a year.
Things have changed a lot for me since I joined Kuapa Kokoo 10 years ago. I was trusted to be elected as Recorder in my Society, so I am responsible for weighing the cocoa from members in my area and paying the farmers. I was also elected as Treasurer in my district. I was selected to travel to UK and to Australia to represent Kuapa which opened my eyes to the world of chocolate and how much people love Kuapa’s chocolate [company] – Divine. It also gave me more confidence, and I put myself forward for a position on the National Executive Committee –the highest level of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union. It was a great day when, in 2014, I was elected as Protocol Officer.
This year, my colleagues at Kuapa Kokoo selected me again to travel to UK to join Divine Chocolate for Chocolate Week. I am only here for 10 days – but I have a full itinerary! I am here to be a good ambassador for my fellow farmers and to let people know how much we do to ensure the cocoa in Divine is “best of the best” – or pa pa paa as we say. It has been good to be in London again and see my colleagues at Divine – and best of all, the sun has been shining.
Before Chocolate Week even started we celebrated Social Saturday. Divine organized a social enterprise fair, and I joined in to sell Divine and tell people more about Kuapa Kokoo. It was interesting to meet other companies who are doing more for communities and disadvantaged people. I hope there will be more companies like these.
So far this week I have been attending events with some of Divine’s customers – including Oxfam, Liberty’s, and Whole Foods, and I travelled to Waitrose headquarters to thank the staff there in person for the support they are giving to me and the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo by selling Divine in their stores. I have had meetings with Divine’s Chair and with our colleagues at Twin. I have been to a chocolate workshop – where for the first time I saw how you can make little delicious handmade chocolates with Divine – it was marvellous.
This weekend it is the Chocolate Show where Divine will have a stand. I will be there, and I am giving a talk. I will say how glad I am that during this festival of chocolate, the cocoa farmer too has a voice. I will tell the story of how we grow cocoa and ensure it is best quality, and I will look to the future where I hope farmers have a real life and prospects from growing cocoa.
When you read this, I will be back in Ghana after a six-hour flight and ten-hour drive to my village - with a backpack of Divine Chocolate and a head full of Chocolate Week!
This is the first time a Kuapa farmer has come to UK for Chocolate Week. It was amazing to see all the other chocolate companies - and as always it made me very happy to see the love people have for Divine. I was here in UK to represent my fellow farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative and bring the voice of the farmer to this special chocolate celebration.
I was invited to give a presentation at The Chocolate Show, and I was very pleased to have this opportunity to tell the audience a little about myself and how we Kuapa farmers are trained to ensure our cocoa is "best of the best.” I talked about how we care for our trees, how we help each other with breaking open the pods, and the most important stages of fermentation and drying. These stages need care and cannot be hurried to ensure the best quality cocoa.
[Here is a little film clip from my presentation.]
I also gave my view on what needs to happen to ensure the future of cocoa, explaining that farmers need to earn enough to care for their families and farms and business. They need enough to invest in new skills to adapt and diversify. Only if cocoa farmers make a good living will the next generation want to keep it up. I proposed to the audience that if we never want chocolate to run out, both farmers and consumers need to be empowered - and then we can look forward to a world where chocolate is celebrated and cherished by everyone! My final message was "Chocolate is your pleasure... Cocoa is my life!”
I talked to many people at the show -- journalists, children doing school projects, and some fellow Ghanaians. There was also the opportunity to visit the Fairtrade Supporters Conference where it was very good to thank supporters for all their work and to start talking about Fairtrade Fortnight 2016.
I was glad to complete my mission and to be with my friends at Divine, and the sunshine made my trip extra good!